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Incident Name: Devil's Den
Date: 08/17/06, 1350 hrs
Personnel: Spencer Stanley Koyle
Age: 33
Agency/Organization: Bureau of Land Management
Position: Wildland Full Time, Division Supervisor

Summary: Division Supervisor Koyle was on the scene of the lightning-caused Devil’s Den wildland fire near Delta, Utah. He was assigned as the Assistant Fire Management Officer for this incident. Koyle and the IC were airlifted into the area of the fire at approximately 1230hrs. After his arrival, Koyle walked down into the canyon to scout the fire. After working his way down into the canyon, Division Supervisor Koyle ordered water drops on hot spots. Fire conditions worsened dramatically, and the IC ordered Division Supervisor Koyle to get out of the canyon. Koyle began to run from the advancing fire, stopped to deploy his fire shelter, and was overrun by the fire. The fire shelter was not able to protect him sufficiently, and he was fatally burned.

Family photo 7/27/06:

Spencer Koyle with his family, 2006 Spencer Koyle with his family, 2006
Spencer Koyle Spencer Koyle
Spencer Koyle Spencer Koyle

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Accident Site (approximate)

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Prelimenary Briefing from US Forest Service: 24 HR Report
  • Expanded Briefing from US Forest Service: 72 HR Report
  • Accident Investigation Report: Devil's Den (2.2 MB pdf)

    The accident investigation report cited four causal factors in the fatality: 1) Koyle ignored the IC’s advice to stay out of the canyon; 2) Koyle lost awareness of the fire’s blowup potential; 3) Koyle lost his situational awareness as he focused on directing water drops; and 4) Koyle did not recognize he was overlooking a number of standard fire-fighting orders.

  • From Fishlake National Forest: Press Release

LLC Firefighter Remember This Series: Why Did He Die?


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Media Articles and Reports.

Firefighter killed in Devil's Den fire identified
From The Desert News: Link to Online Article
Published: Friday, Aug. 18, 2006 10:46 a.m. MDT
By Ben Winslow

Authorities have identified a firefighter who died while battling a wildfire burning near Oak City. Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker said Spencer Stanley Koyle, 33, died while working the Devil's Den Fire, burning about three miles east of Oak City.

"They were working to keep the fire from coming into the town of Oak City. It appears the wind shifted and changed the direction and intensity of the fire," Dekker said in a statement released this morning. "Lookouts from the team ordered everyone out. Koyle attempted to evacuate but was overtaken by the fire."

Dekker said Koyle lived in the town of Holden. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

Interagency fire officials in Richfield said Koyle's death is under investigation. Approximately 30 firefighters who were on the scene with Koyle have been sent home, said Davida Carnahan with the Fishlake National Forest. Crisis management teams will be made available to them, she said.

The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands has taken control of managing the firefighting efforts. An incident command team from California is expected to arrive tonight to begin battling the blaze.

The Devil's Den Fire has so far burned between 250 and 300 acres of pinyon juniper and brush in Oak Creek Canyon. The wildfire was sparked by lightning on Aug. 15.


Utah's one major fire is 95% contained
From The Desert News: Link to Online Article
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

OAK CITY, Millard County — A single major fire in the state of Utah continues to burn but firefighters are quickly reaching containment.

The Devil's Den Fire, burning three miles southeast of Oak City, has charred 14,647 acres and is 95 percent contained. Nearly 400 firefighters are battling the blaze, fighting the few remaining hot spots within the fire's boundaries and working to secure the surrounding fire line, according to Chuck Dickson with the Millard County Incident Command Post.

No structures have been damaged by the fire, but two firefighters have been injured and another lost his life. Spencer Koyle was killed Aug. 17 when he became trapped inside the fire. Two others were dismissed from duty, one with a knee injury from falling and the other with a back injury, Dickson said.

Devil's Den was ignited by lightning Aug. 15.


BLM firefighter honored
From The Desert News: Link to Online Article
Published: Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 12:07 a.m. MDT
By Brandy A. Lee

HOLDEN — Fire trucks with their lights on lined Main Street Wednesday as the casket of firefighter Spencer Stanley Koyle was carried atop a Bureau of Land Management truck.

Firefighters, officers and residents held hands over their hearts as the truck passed en route to the cemetery to honor the 33-year-old Koyle, who died last Thursday while battling the Devil's Den Fire, burning about three miles southeast of Oak City.

"What an honor," said Bridget Bennett. "He was very well respected and honorable." Bennett attended high school with Koyle and remembers what a likable person he was. Bennett said the graduating class of 1991 was a little wild, but Koyle was one of the calmer graduates. "He was a little bit of a tease," she said. "But it was all in fun." Many knew Koyle as a kind, respectable and loving man.

The LDS chapel in Holden was packed with people who knew Koyle, members of his fire crew and some who never knew him. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was among those attending the service, which was broadcast to an overflow chapel in Fillmore.

At the cemetery, the American Legion fired rifles in salute to Koyle and his service. A flag, hung from the boom of a Richfield fire truck, was lowered as a trumpeter played Taps. It was retrieved by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and presented to Nichole Koyle. With their three children at her side, she clung to the flag as pallbearers put flowers on the casket.

"Every day was an opportunity to work with him," said Todd Murray, of Richfield. "You knew you were working with the best." Murray, a fire operation specialist, fought fires with Koyle on many occasions. He also worked and talked a lot with Koyle as their offices worked together. "You were always tired after working with him or for him," Murray said. "He was the prime example of a true leader and would never ask you to do anything he wasn't willing to do himself."

Koyle is survived by his wife, Nichole, and three children, ages 7, 4 and 18 months. During the funeral, family members shared memories of how much Koyle loved his wife and children. On Aug. 3, Turner, Koyle's older son, turned 7. Koyle had a softball game that evening and was the last batter of the game. He hit a home run and let his son run around the bases for him. Mike King, Koyle's brother, said Koyle stood at home plate with his arms open waiting for Turner.

"They (the family) will miss him and they are missing him," said LDS stake President Frank Stevens, who was the family's spokesman. "He was just the life of the party and a very fun young man."

The fire that killed Koyle has now burned more than 7,800 acres and is only 15 percent contained, said Chuck Dickson, spokesman for crews fighting the Devil's Den Fire in Fishlake National Forest in Millard County. More than 400 people were battling the blaze Wednesday. Fire crews spent most of the day working on the south side in anticipation of a storm front that is expected to move in over the weekend, Dickson said.

Koyle died last week after winds shifted, causing the fire to change direction and become more intense. Firefighters were ordered to evacuate from the area. Koyle was surrounded by the fire and deployed his fire shelter, authorities said.

An investigation into Koyle's death is being conducted and a report is expected within 45 days. "We want to make sure we know the truth so that we can learn from it," Dickson said.

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

From The Desert News: Link to Online Article
Published: Monday, Aug. 21, 2006 10:26 a.m. MDT

Spencer Koyle "Families Forever" Spencer Stanley Koyle, age 33, lost his life Thursday, August 17, 2006 while doing what he loved, fighting fires. He was born June 22, 1973 in Murray, UT the third of Stan and Sue Koyle's seven children. Spencer was raised in Kanosh and graduated from Millard High School in 1991. He served an honorable mission to Copenhagen, Denmark. He was a graduate of Snow College and Utah State University, earning a BS degree in Forestry. He loved sports, and during college he worked on various intramural staffs.

On Dec. 28, 1995, Spencer married his high school sweetheart, Nichole Nixon, of Holden, in the Manti LDS Temple. Together they had three children, Turner, Kadence, and Kambree. His family was his greatest joy, and Spencer was a tremendous husband and father. Spencer loved taking his children with him wherever he went. He enjoyed hunting, the outdoors, sports, and was an Eagle Scout.

He loved fighting fire and was a 15 year professional firefighter for the BLM and Forest Service. His career began in high school where he worked as a seasonal firefighter during the summers. At the time of his death, Spencer was the Fire Operations Supervisor for the Fillmore Interagency Fire Crew. Spencer was a very giving, selfless, compassionate person who was a friend to everyone who knew him. He was honest and hardworking with a strong commitment to doing things well, whatever the task. He was also known for being a big tease with a fun loving personality.

Spencer was an active member of the LDS Church and was currently serving in the Sunday School presidency where his favorite assignment was to ring the bell. He loved children and youth and spent many years serving in Primary and as Scoutmaster. He was also a faithful home teacher, and his service and testimony have always been an example to all those around him.

He is survived by his wife, Nichole (31); and children, Turner Spencer (7), Kadence Nichole (4), and Kambree Lin (18 months); parents, Stanley and Sue Turner Koyle, Kanosh; siblings, Sharon (Travis) Taylor, Kanosh; Stacy (Kyle) Stott, Kanosh; Sheri (Richard) Whiting, West Valley; Shelly (Ben) Coray, West Jordan; Shane (Kyle), Golden, CO; Suzette (Richard) Lopez, Sand Point, ID. He will also be remembered and loved by many relatives, various fire crews, and the community on which he had such an impact.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, Aug 23rd, 11 a.m. in the Holden Ward LDS Chapel. A viewing will be held in Holden Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. and Wednesday from 9-10:30 a.m. at the church. Interment will be in the Holden Cemetery under the direction of Rasmussen Mortuary. In lieu of flowers, the family has a trust fund for the Koyle children established at Wells Fargo Bank.


Maryland ceremony to honor firefighter
From The Desert News: Link to Online Article
Published: Friday, Sept. 28, 2007 12:39 a.m. MDT

A Utah firefighter killed in the line of duty will be honored at the 26th National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service in Maryland next month.

Spencer S. Koyle, 33, a fire operations supervisor with the Utah Bureau of Land Management, was killed Aug. 17, 2006, while fighting the Devil's Den Fire near Oak City. Four other firefighters who died in the line of duty will also be honored at the Oct. 7 ceremony.

Koyle, who lived in Holden, is survived by a wife and three children. The Deseret Morning News contacted Nichole Koyle at her home Thursday. She said she planned to attend the ceremony but declined any further comment.


A Giant Among Giants ... A Firefighter Remembered

8/17/2013 | Online Tribute by Michael Reid

Have you ever lost someone close to you in an unexpected and life changing way? My life changing event took place seven years ago.  People say that time heals all wounds.  I am not sure that is true for me.  I know that the visibility of the event,,, (More at the link)


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Contributors to this article: Steve Lutz


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