AP NEWS

14 firefighters honored 25 years after deadly Colorado fire

July 7, 2019
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Family members of Roger Ross speak with New Castle, Colo., Mayor Art Riddile, second right, at the Storm King Fire press conference on Saturday, July 6, 2019, near Glenwood Springs, Colo., marking 25 years since the lives of 14 Wildland firefighters were lost on Storm King Mountain which looms in the background. (Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent via AP)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — More than 100 people gathered in western Colorado to honor 14 firefighters killed 25 years ago on Storm King Mountain.

Family members, friends of the victims and survivors of the fire hiked up the Storm King Memorial Trail Saturday and reflected on the lessons and losses of the July 6, 1994, disaster, The Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported .

The lightning-caused fired raced up a steep hillside, trapping 12 firefighters on a fire line. Two others were found dead on top of a ridge.

Nine of the dead were members of the Prineville Hotshots firefighting team from Oregon.

Jim Roth’s younger brother Roger was a smokejumper who died in the fire. He said it’s important to remember what happened to help prevent it from happening again.

Roth, an engineer who has worked on firefighter safety, said he tries to visit the site every year.

“I reflect on my life, on why I’m still here, and what work I need to do to make firefighters safer,” he said. “I come off the mountain more energized because I’ve had a chance to be close to my brother.”

Former Prineville Hotshots member Alex Robertson survived the tragedy and is now is the fire and aviation staff officer for an interagency fire office in Oregon.

He said he has brought more than 1,000 firefighters to Storm King Memorial Trail to learn the lessons of the fire.

“The challenge we have is that we cannot just not fight fire, we can’t not put people in harm’s way,” Robertson said. “If we didn’t fight fires, they would burn up towns, and people would lose lives. The challenge is deciding when it’s necessary to put firefighters in danger, and how.

“That balance of when do we put people in harm’s way, that’s the big question. Our fire managers make those decisions every day,” Robertson said.

Rob Burger, a western Colorado fire management officer, says firefighters promised never to forget the losses that day.

“This event 25 years ago shaped what we do in wildland fire, and it changed it forever,” he said.

“The promise we made 25 years ago is to never forget those that we lost. We’re going to continue to honor their memory; we’re going to support the survivors and their families,” Burger said.

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Information from: Post Independent, http://www.postindependent.com/

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