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Lessons learned from the South Canyon Fire, 25 years later

Posted at 5:37 PM, Jul 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-05 19:53:23-04

DENVER -- South Metro Fire Captain Brian Delasantos was working in Littleton when the South Canyon Fire happened in 1994 and remembers it well.

“It wasn’t the only fire fatality at the time, but it was the biggest,” he said.

These days, federal agencies provide staff rides up to the area.

“You walk the actual footsteps of people involved. Sometimes the survivors are the guide. Very powerful,” Delasantos said.

It's a poignant way to never forget what happened, and remember why they do what they do.

“We’re trying to not let their tragedy go in vain,” Delasantos said. “There’s dozens and dozens of lessons that can be learned from that fire alone on how to stay safe in this industry."

Meaning changes were needed to be made to help prevent it in the future.

“That was a big one as terms of internal communications between federal agencies and state, and even local like us fighting wildland fire,” Delasantos said.

It also greatly improved how fire crews work with the National Weather Service.

“They’re very close embedded with our firefighters, providing timely weather observations so everybody got better connected," Delasantos said.

And brought about measures like escape routes, lookouts, safety zones and better safety tents.

“I feel a lot safer as a result of the studies and changes made after that fire,” Delasantos said.