South Canyon Fire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
View showing the West Flank Fireline, looking northeast across the West Drainage.

The South Canyon Fire was a 1994 wildfire that took the lives of 14 wildland firefighters on Storm King Mountain, near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, on July 6th, 1994. It is often also referred to as the "Storm King" fire.

It was the subject of John Maclean's book Fire on the Mountain: The True Story of the South Canyon Fire.

Fire origin[edit]

On July 2, 1994, lightning sparked a fire near the base of Storm King Mountain, 7 miles (11 km) west of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Initially small and well away from private property, the fire was assigned low priority and allowed to smolder for the first two days. By July 4th, the fire had burned only 3 acres (1.2 ha).[1] Nearby residents of Canyon Creek Estates, however, were growing increasingly concerned by the persistent blaze, prompting local authorities to take action. Due to the ruggedness of the terrain, and the efforts necessary to coordinate the incident response, it was decided that the fight against the fire would commence the following morning.[1]

Attempts to battle the blaze[edit]

On July 5th, firefighters began their approach from the west at the east end of Canyon Creek Estates, making a difficult march up the rugged terrain along what is the present location of the Storm King Mountain Memorial Trail. Firefighters began constructing firelines to contain the blaze. The fight was joined that evening by smokejumpers who began aiding in the construction of the fireline, working well on into the night of July 5 but quitting early due to "danger from rolling rocks".[1]

The following day, twenty Hotshots from Prineville, Oregon, were rushed to the fire to aid in the battle. That afternoon, a dry cold front passed through the area, increasing the winds and fire activity. By 4 p.m., the fire had "spotted" beyond the fireline and below the firefighters' location to the west and began to race towards them up the steep, densely vegetated terrain.[1] Twelve firefighters were unable to outrun the blaze and perished. Two more helitack firefighters were also killed as they tried to flee to the northwest.

Memorials[edit]

The Storm King Mountain Memorial Trail, closely following the actual path the firefighters hiked to fight the blaze, leads visitors to the site. Plaques and memorials line the trail explaining the events and paying homage to those who fell. Memorials have also been constructed at Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs, and at Ochoco Creek Park in Prineville, Oregon.

Those who died:
Prineville Hotshots: Kathi Beck, Tamera Bickett, Scott Blecha, Levi Brinkley, Douglas Dunbar, Terri Hagen, Bonnie Holtby, Rob Johnson, Jon Kelso.
Missoula Smokejumper: Don Mackey
McCall Smokejumpers: Roger Roth, Jim Thrash.
Helitack: Robert Browning, Jr., Richard Tyler.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Butler, Bret W.; Bartlette, Roberta A.; Bradshaw, Larry S.; Cohen, Jack D.; Andrews, Patricia L.; Putnam, Ted; Mangan, Richard J. (September 1998). "Fire Behavior Associated with the 1994 South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain, Colorado". Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station (United States Department of Agriculture). RMRS-RP-9. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 

Coordinates: 39°34′26.48″N 107°25′36.82″W / 39.5740222°N 107.4268944°W / 39.5740222; -107.4268944