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Incident Name:  South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain
Date: 7/6/94
Personnel:  14 lives lost
Age:
Agency/Organization: 13- US Forest Service & 1- BLM
Position: 9 Prineville Hotshots, 2 McCall Smokejumpers, 1 Missoula Smokeumper, 2 Helitack

Summary: Fourteen firefighters -- 13 USFS and 1 BLM -- died while assigned to Storm King Mountain Fire near Glenwood Springs CO.

Prineville Hotshots

Kathi Julie Beck, 24 - Ochoco National Forest in Oregon
Tamera "Tami" Jean Bickett, 25 - Ochoco National Forest
Scott A. Blecha, 27 - Ochoco National Forest
Levi Brinkley, 22  - Ochoco National Forest
Douglas Michael Dunbar, 22 - Ochoco National Forest
Terri Ann Hagen, 28 - Ochoco National Forest
Bonnie Jean Holtby, 21 - Ochoco National Forest
Robert Alan Johnson, 26 - Ochoco National Forest
Jon Roy Kelso, 27 - Ochoco National Forest

Smokejumpers

Donald K. Mackey, 34 - Missoula Smokejumper
Roger W. Roth, 31 - McCall Smokejumper
James R. Thrash, 44 - McCall Smokejumper

Helitack

Robert E. Browning Jr., 28 - Helitack from Savannah River Forest Station
Richard Tyler, 33 - BLM Helitack, Grand Junction

Narrative: On July 6, fourteen wildland firefighters lost their lives when a wind shift resulted in a blow-up fire condition that trapped them on the uphill and downwind position from the fire on Storm King Mountain, Colorado. The fourteen firefighters included smokejumpers Don Mackey, Roger Roth, and James Thrash; Prineville Hot Shots John Kelso, Kathi Beck, Scott Blecha, Levi Brinkley, Bonnie Holtby, Rob Johnson, Tami Bickett, Doug Dunbar, and Terri Hagen; and helitack crew members Richard Tyler and Robert Browning.

Browning and Tyler were killed when their escape route was cut off by a large drop and they were overrun by the fire. The other firefighters were killed as they moved towards the ridgeline to escape the fire advancing towards them from below. According to witness accounts, the firefighters were unable to see how dangerous their position had become because of a small ridge below them. They had been moving slowly and were still carrying their equipment as the fire blew up behind them to a height of over 100 feet. At this point the crew dropped their tools and made an uphill dash for the top of the mountain but only one person made it over to survive. The fire overran the remaining twelve firefighters and reportedly reached a height of 200 to 300 feet as it crossed over the ridge. It was estimated to be moving at between 10 and 20 miles per hour at the time of the blow-up. Several other firefighters in various other locations on the mountain became trapped by the flames but were able to make it to safe positions or deploy their emergency shelters. Post incident investigations have determined that the crews fighting the fire violated many safety procedures and standard firefighting orders. Unknown to the firefighters, the weather conditions prevalent that day had forecast a "red flag" meaning the most dangerous wildfire conditions. (From USFA Database)

Prineville Hotshots

Kathi Beck Kathi Beck
Tami Bickett Tami Bickett
Scott Blecha Scott Blecha
Levi Brinkley Levi Brinkley
 
Doug Dunbar Doug Dunbar
Terri Hagen Terri Hagen
Bonnie Holtby Bonnie Holtby
Robert Johnson Robert Johnson
Jon Kelso Jon Kelso

 

Smokejumpers
Don Mackey Don Mackey
Roger Roth Roger Roth
Jim Thrash Jim Thrash

 

Helitack
Robert Browning Robert Browning
Richard Tyler Richard Tyler

 

14 Ribbons Over Storm King - 10 Years
14 Ribbons at Storm King - 10 Years 14 Ribbons at Storm King - 10 Years

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Maps

Burnover Location

 

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

  • Search wildlandfire.com on terms "Storm King" or "South Canyon". There are too many instances to document here. The lost friends are mourned every year, often daily. The situation leading to their deaths is discussed often.
  • Memorials and Monuments site page.
  • Treks to Storm King with photos on Memorials and Monuments photo page.

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Media Articles and Reports.

Town Mourns Town Mourns
Town Mourns Town Mourns

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

Beginning of the the South Canyon Fire -- Spot

Beginning of South Canyon Fire Beginning of South Canyon Fire

Memorial at McCall Smokejumper Base with stones for Smokejumpers Roger Roth and Jim Thrash

Smokejumpers Roger Roth & Jim Thrash Memorial at McCall Smokejumpers Roger Roth & Jim Thrash Memorial at McCall
Smokejumper Roger Roth Memorial at McCall Smokejumper Roger Roth Memorial at McCall
Smokejumper Jim Thrash Memorial at McCall Smokejumper Jim Thrash Memorial at McCall

Statue of three representative Wildland Firefighters at the memorial at Prineville, Oregon, home of the Prineville Hotshots who perished: the memorial site also includes a walk, shaded by trees that have grown large in intervening years. This historical slide is compliments of Jim Gobel.

Early photo of the Memorial at Prineville, OR Early photo of the Memorial at Prineville, OR

Location of Prineville Memorial to the firefighters who died on the South Canyon incident on Storm King Mountain in Colorado

Contributors to this article: Doug Campbell, Michelle Reugebrink, J Benshoof, Tom Shepard, John Miller, Vicki Minor, the WFF, Jim Gobel, Mellie, and many, many others. If you'd like me to add your name here, please let me know at planning, contact us.

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