Storm King 14 Honored On 20th Anniversary Of Deadly South Canyon Fire

Jul 7, 2014

The honor guard and color guard at the South Canyon Fire 20th Anniversary Commemoration in Glenwood Springs, Colo.
Credit Laura Palmisano

Hundreds of people gathered on Sunday in Glenwood Springs to honor 14 men and women who died on July 6, 1994 while fighting the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain.

Fire trucks and emergency responder vehicles drove in a line to Two Rivers Park. The vehicles were silent other than the rumbling of their engines.

Two trucks from the Prineville Hotshots, an Oregon based wildland firefighting crew, were part of the solemn procession. The Prineville Hotshots lost nine firefighters to the South Canyon Fire.

Those individuals along with five other firefighters were killed by the blaze that had jumped the fireline catching the group off guard and overtaking them. 

The 20th anniversary commemoration event included a Native American blessing from Kenny Frost, a member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

Todd Richardson, the Bureau of Land Management's fire officer for Colorado, spoke at the ceremony.

"On July 6, 1994 I had the news shared with me and [it] forever has transformed how I look at my responsibility to fire," Richardson said.

 Daniel Jiron, a U.S. Forest Service employee, was assigned to the South Canyon Fire on July 5, 1994, a day before the Storm King tragedy.

"All of a sudden after the events that day the stakes of fire changed in a very dramatic way," Jiron said.

 Ralph Holtby’s daughter Bonnie was one of the 14 killed during the South Canyon Fire.

“Twenty years have gone by," Holtby said. "It’s tough to get closure...and it still hurts some, but that’s the way life is.”

During the event a smoke jumper plane flew over the crowd and dropped 14 purple banners from the sky. It was an unscheduled part of the ceremony.

The commemoration wrapped up with a reading of the names of the Storm King 14: Kathi Beck, Tamera Bickett, Scott Blecha, Levi Brinkley, Robert Browning, Doug Dunbar, Terri Hagen, Bonnie Holtby, Rob Johnson, Jon Kelso, Don Mackey, Roger Roth, Jim Thrash, and Richard Tyler.