Storm King Mountain Fire
One of Glenwood Springs’ most tragic events occurred on July 6, 1994, when 14 firefighters perished as a wall of flames swept over them in a matter of seconds. The fire they were fighting began as a lightning strike a few days earlier on July 2, near the base of Storm King Mountain, just west of Glenwood Springs in South Canyon. Because it was a small fire that didn’t threaten any private property or structures it was allowed to burn. However, by July 4, it had burned three acres and was dangerously approaching the residences of Canyon Creek Estates.
On July 5, firefighters and smoke jumpers were working together to create fire lines to contain the blaze, areas free of material that could fuel the fire and over which it was hoped the fire would not jump. On July 6, twenty Hotshots from Prineville, Oregon arrived in Glenwood to assist with the battle. That afternoon, a dry cold front with heavy winds passed through the area, fanning the flames and causing the blaze to jump the fire lines. By 4:00 PM, 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. 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.
We honor the brave men and women who died that day protecting the homes and property of Glenwood Springs residents include:
Prineville Hotshots: Kathi Beck, Tami Bickett, Scott Blecha, Levi Brinkley, Douglas Dunbar, Terri Hagen, Bonnie Holtby, Rob Johnson and Jon Kelso
Missoula Smokejumper: Don Mackey
McCall Smokejumpers: Roger Roth and Jim Thrash
Helitack Crew: Rob Browning and Richard Tyler
There is a memorial at Two Rivers Park to honor each of the fallen firefighters. It is a stopping place for firefighter crews passing through Glenwood Springs either en route to a fire or returning home. Visitors can also hike the rugged Storm King Memorial Trail; it is the same trail used by the doomed firefighters.
Coal Seam Fire
Glenwood Springs experienced another devastating fire on June 8, 2002. Instead of lightning, the cause of this fire dates back to Glenwood’s early mining history. The mountains from Glenwood Springs to New Castle contain vast repositories of coal, a highly explosive substance. In 1910, at the South Canyon Mine, due to unknown causes, a fire ignited in one of the mine shafts. Even though it was sealed off the fire continued to burn, and continues to burn in the mountain to this day. Fire officials and geologists regularly monitor the fire, but in June 2002, the fire breached the surface consuming 29 homes and more than 12,000 acres of land. Thousands of people were evacuated from West Glenwood Springs and Four Mile. Thanks to hard lessons learned in the South Canyon Fire, no one was killed or seriously injured in the Coal Seam Fire.
Explore all of the historical things to do, learn and see in Glenwood Springs with a modern twist; there is something for everyone and a new adventure to be had every day! For more Glenwood Springs history, visit the Glenwood Springs Historical Sociery and Frontier Museum.