Storm King 14 Committee regroups to plan 10th anniversary remembrance
GSPI News Editor
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A day of remembrance and several days of firefighter safety training are being planned to recognize next year’s 10th anniversary of the deaths of 14 firefighters on Storm King Mountain.
The Storm King 14 Committee, made up of local residents who oversaw the creation of a Storm King monument at Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs, has regrouped to work on efforts to honor the 14 a decade later.
Some of the memorial services will take place July 6, 2004, exactly 10 years after the 14 died in a firestorm on Storm King Mountain west of Glenwood Springs.
“We’re calling it a remembrance because we had promised the families that we would remember,” said Rachael Windh, a member of the Storm King 14 Committee.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Wildfire Academy plans to conduct training in June in the Roaring Fork Valley, with the 10th anniversary of the Storm King disaster in mind.
The training will be based in Carbondale, but some activities will take place around Glenwood.
“They are going to incorporate some sort of recognition of the 10th anniversary,” said Sue Froeschle, a spokeswoman for the White River National Forest.
“They’ll actually be having the students working on Storm King Mountain, and doing some clearing and restoration work and stuff like that that a typical firefighter needs to know how to do.”
She noted that most of the trainees will be about 18 to 20 years old.
“They were pretty young when the Storm King incident occurred, so it’s a way to make them aware how much their present-day training was influenced by the lessons of that event,” Froeschle said.
Far from being forgotten over the last 10 years, “Storm King” is repeated almost like a mantra within wildfire circles. The firefighters’ deaths prompted an increased emphasis on firefighter safety in an attempt to prevent mistakes made on the mountain that day.
Sandy Dunbar, whose son, Doug, was one of nine Prineville, Ore., Hot Shots who died on the mountain, appreciates that the tragedy is still high in people’s minds.
“It’s important that it’s recognized, I think, and that those particular 14 are not going to be forgotten,” she said.
“Everybody refers to Storm King. It’s just part of their fire training.”
Just a month ago, Dunbar spoke to a junior high class about Storm King, and showed them a charred fanny pack her son wore when he died.
Storm King’s place in the lore of wildfire disasters means firefighters from across the country will be coming to Glenwood next July.
That will present a bit of a challenge for those planning remembrance activities, given the preference of families during past anniversaries.
“The families have always said that they don’t like it to be a big media thing,” said Windh.
To meet differing expectations, she expects some activities to be held for families alone, and others to be open to the public at large, including visiting firefighters.
“What we’re saying is if they’re all coming, we’d better organize something,” Windh said.
Beginning in 1994, members of the Storm King 14 Committee paired up with families of those who died, to serve as local liaisons. Committee members are contacting their families to sound out their wishes for observing the 10th anniversary. So far the message coming back is a desire for a low-key remembrance, said Sebrina Hoffmeister, a committee member and human resources director for the city of Glenwood Springs.
“It’s 10 years later and they want to remember, but they don’t want to have parades or any large events,” Hoffmeister said.
She said there probably will be a remembrance on Storm King Mountain, and then one in nearby Canyon Creek Estates, possibly followed by something at the Two Rivers Park bandshell, and then at the monument at the park. That could be followed by a picnic for the families.
Dunbar said quite a few of the families are interested in spending the night of July 5 on the mountain.
“I’m contemplating it,” she said.
Families have returned to the mountain and Glenwood Springs every year on the anniversary of the deaths. She expects more families, and more members of each family, to make the trip next year.
Other activities also are being planned in connection with the anniversary. Froeschle said fire T-shirts that were printed up for the Storm King Fire, last year’s Coal Seam and Spring Creek fires, and various Colorado Fire Academy trainings, are being made into a quilt to be presented to the city.
Also, the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Post Independent and Glenwood Caverns are working on a series of displays at the caverns that will give information about the Storm King Fire and the Coal Seam Fire, which burned 29 Glenwood-area homes on June 8, 2002.
These fires’ scars on the landscape are clearly visible from the caverns’ perch at the top of the Iron Mountain Tramway.
The displays also will contain information about fire management, the wildland/urban interface and the importance of having defensible space around homes.
Hoffmeister said anyone interested in helping out with the planning committee is welcome to participate. She also expects that the group will be accepting donations to help defray the costs of the remembrance, and asking the Glenwood Springs City Council for financial support.
Information: Sebrina Hoffmeister, 384-6400.
Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516
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