Incident Name: South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain
Personnel: 14 lives lost
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.
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
Donald K. Mackey, 34 - Missoula Smokejumper
Roger W. Roth, 31 - McCall Smokejumper
James R. Thrash, 44 - McCall Smokejumper
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)
- Storm King/South Canyon Fire Investigation Executive Summary from the accident investigation team report (html) (wayback machine)
- Storm King/South Canyon Fire Investigation Team: Serious Accident Report through Followup Actions (large 5,025 K pdf)
- Was there an OSHA Report?
- Storm King/South Canyon Incident Management Review Team (IMRT): Final Report (526 K pdf) includes recommendations and Corrective Action Plan
- Storm King/South Canyon- Putnam: Analysis of Escape Efforts and Personal Protective Equipmemt) (1,960 K pdf) includes recommendations
- TriData Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study, available in three parts at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) website:
- Phase I: Identifying the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Issues Impacting Firefighter Safety (715 K pdf)
- Phase II: Setting New Goals For the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Areas Impacting Firefighter Safety (369 K pdf)
- Phase III: Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety: Phase III Whole (2,700 K pdf) or Phase III In Parts by Chapter
- The names, death date and brief bios of the Storm King fallen are included in the USFA Firefighter Fatality Retrospective Study, published April 2002 (2,888 K pdf)
- Wildland Firefighters Human Factors Workshop: 1995, organized by Ted Putnam, USFS
- Storm King/South Canyon: Fire Behavior Associated with the 1994 South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain, CO, 1998 (3,400 K pdf)
- Lessons Gleaned from the 1994 Shelter Deployments: Southwest Area and South Canyon Fire, CO
- Fire Behavior Case Studies and Analysis- 2003; South Canyon Fire, pages 75-84: Fire Management Today (1.2 MB pdf)
- Putnam Commentary: Collapse of Decision Making and Organizational Structure on Storm King Mountain (28 K pdf)
- Doug Campbell: Another Way to Prevent a Reoccurrence of the South Canyon Fire (34 K pdf)
- Doug Campbell: Alignment of Forces on Storm King:
- South Canyon Fire: Ten Year Review of the Effectiveness of Planned Actions (199 K pdf)
- Shari Downhill: Human Factors (558 K pdf)
- Shari Downhill: Ten Tough Years (Human Factors) (115 K pdf)
- Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (arose out of the Storm King Tragedy)
- YouTube: Eric Hipke - South Canyon Staff Ride - May 25, 2006 (3 min 35 sec)
- Wildlandfire Lessons Learned Center, YouTube: South Canyon Fire 1994 Incident Reflections (7 min 2 sec)
- Glenwood Springs Fatal Wildland Fire, YouTube: Video of the fire as it moved up the mountain (2 min 20 sec)
- Jim Cook briefing paper: Trends in wildland fire entrapment fatalities 1933-2003 (217 K pdf)
- Book: Fire on the Mountain by John Maclean
- Downhill Line Construction Guidelines, 1998
- From the Lessons Learned Center: Two More Chains, Spring 2014: The Lunch Spot
- 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.
- Photo credit S. Doehring.
- Forest Service Fire Management Today, Vol 55, No. 1, 1995 "In Memoriam"
- USFS Heroes Memorial
- Do not stand on this mountain and weep
We are not here, we do not sleep
We are the thousand winds that blow
We are the diamond glint on the snow
We are the sunlight on ripened grain
We are the tempered autumn rain
When you awaken in the morning hush
We are the swift, uplifting rush
Of the quiet birds in circled flight
We are the soft stars that shine at night
Do not stand on this mountain and weep
We are not here, we do not sleep.
- Storm King 14 Memorial Trail: photos of the landscape and the markers from 2001; courtesy of Matt Jurach then of davisfirecrew.org and the waybackmachine archive
- USFA Memorial Database: Kathi Julie Beck | Tamera "Tami" Jean Bickett | Scott A. Blecha | Levi Brinkley | Douglas Michael Dunbar | Terri Ann Hagen | Bonnie Jean Holtby | Robert Alan Johnson | Jon Roy Kelso | Donald K. Mackey | Roger W. Roth | James R. Thrash | Robert Browning | Richard Tyler
Beginning of the the South Canyon Fire -- Spot
Memorial at McCall Smokejumper Base with stones for Smokejumpers Roger Roth and Jim Thrash
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.
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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