Plans in works for Storm King’s 20th anniversary
Jim Hawkins remembers exactly where he was 20 years ago this upcoming July 6 when a fire blew up on Storm King Mountain west of Glenwood Springs.
Hawkins now owns Four Mile Creek Bed and Breakfast outside Glenwood, but at the time was a Denver firefighter.
“I was at work fighting a brush fire when that cold front blew through Denver a few hours after it blew through (Glenwood),” he remembers.
Hawkins said even the brush fire he fought that day in Denver threatened to get away from firefighters, but they were in a good place to fight it.
“Put yourself in a bad place, and wind like that is devastating,” he said.
The cold front whipped a small fire into a big one on Storm King, killing 14 wildland firefighters. Now, plans are being made to remember those who died, including with a commemoration at Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs from 5 to 6 p.m. July 6.
A commemoration website has been set up at http://www.southcanyonfire.com.
Family members of the deceased also are expected in town that day, and access to Storm King Mountain is being restricted that morning from 6 a.m. to noon to accommodate them as they climb to the scene of the disaster. The Colorado Army National Guard will be providing helicopter flights up the mountain for family members unable to make the hike.
Donations for the anniversary are being accepted through Alpine Bank in support of family members attending. Surplus funds will go to a scholarship fund first set up 20 years ago for the families of the Storm King 14 and other wildland firefighters.
Hawkins, a guitarist and songwriter, has personally commemorated what’s officially known as the South Canyon Fire by recently issuing a song and video, “When Hell’s Fire Broke Through,” on YouTube. It’s a rearranged version of a song he first wrote about four years ago, and the video incorporates images from the fire. The video already has close to 1,000 hits.
Local, state and federal firefighting agencies are involved in the commemoration planning, along with entities including the Colorado Fallen Firefighter Foundation, the Prineville Hotshots and the McCall (Idaho) and Missoula (Mont.) Smokejumpers. Nine Prineville, Ore., Hotshots died on Storm King, and smokejumpers also were among the fallen.
From June 2-8, the Colorado Wildland Fire & Incident Management Academy will hold its 2014 summer academy at Coal Ridge High School west of New Castle. The South Canyon Fire will be a theme at the academy and those attending will get the chance to visit the fire site.