Storm King Mountain tragedy: 14 wildland firefighters killed in Colorado in July 1994

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. - Relatives and friends of the 14 firefighters who were killed when a wildfire trapped them on Storm King mountain in western Colorado 20 years ago returned to the site of the tragedy Sunday to remember their loved ones.

Kenny Frost, a Southern Ute spiritual leader, gave the blessing and sang around a group of crosses paying homage to the firefighters.

"The community will never forget the sacrifices of the 14 firefighters on Storm King Mountain July 6, 1994," Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson said in a release.

The group of wildland firefighters from Oregon left their homes, their family and their friends to come to Colorado and save lives and property from the out-of-control wildfire.

Some 50 firefighters were fighting the South Canyon Fire when suddenly the winds shifted and increased and the fire blew up.

Between 4:14 and 4:18 p.m. the fire was below a crew of firefighters walking out to the west flank of the fire. Two minutes later the fire reached the ridgeline and overtook 12 firefighters. There were no survivors.

Two more firefighters were 0.3 miles away working at a helispot. They also tried to outrun the fire and were overcome.

A trail has been built on Storm King Mountain as a tribute to these 14 men and women. The Storm King Memorial Trail is off Interstate 70 at exit 109/Canyon Creek.

Memorials mark the spots where Scott Blecha, Jim Thrash, Kathi Beck, Terri Hagan, Doug Dunbar, Roger Roth, Tami Bickett, Levi Brinkley, Jon Kelso, Rob Johnson, Bonnie Holtby, Don Mackey, Richard Tyler and Robert Browning, Jr. died.

The trail was left rugged and steep as it was for the firefighters that day. The firefighters carried 30 to 60 pounds of equipment each as they ran for their lives up the slope in the intense heat. There are stairs to assist visitors in making the climb.

On Sunday, Smokejumpers flew over Storm King Mountain to honor the 14 firefighters who lost their lives. They dropped 14 streamers -- one for each of the firefighters who died.

See photos of the fallen firefighters and read more about the South Canyon fire here: http://www.southcanyonfire.com/

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