How Should We Fight Fire?

I was the Fire Information Officer on duty on July 6, 1994 when 14 firefighters were killed on Storm King Mountain near Glenwood Springs, Colorado. At that time, I was working for the Bureau of Land Management, and I was providing information on over 100 fires on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, some of which had already burned homes and thousands of acres. My day had begun at 7:30 a.m.  At about 4:45 I got the call that the 50-acre, slow-growing South Canyon Fire had blown up and there were fatalities. I felt like someone had hit me hard in the stomach, and for three days after I couldn't draw a full breath. I've had that same feeling every July 6th since then, at about 3:30 pm, the time that the firefighters were over run by flames. That day I had a partial list of the crews working the fire, and it included co-workers and friends. But in order to do my job, I had to put my fears aside, and begin the task of sorting out truth from rumor and relaying that on. The phone rang all night long from local and national press and from as far away as London. Every time I placed the phone back in the cradle it would ring again with someone new calling. At about 1:00 a.m. I began getting calls from firefighters' families all across the country, trying to find out wher

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5 thoughts on “How Should We Fight Fire?

  1. Hi Kathy,
    Thanks so much for your heartfelt story on the death of the Storm King firefighters. Very moving and it is easy to see how you were affected. The explanation in the sidebar, which I had never seen, helped me to understand how this happened. I read the book, “Young Men and Fire”, about the deaths in the Montana fire many years before and how it played out with the authors personal investigation.

    Chip

    1. Kathy-If I was editor of NYTimes or some other paper, I would certainly publish your account. I hope you have or will submit it. I’d rather read OnPasture than mass media, but your circulation must be limited to graziers of various stripes and your fire piece deserves alot more.

      1. Thanks, Bill. This was a really important event in Kathy’s life, and it means a lot to me and, hopefully, to On Pasture readers, that she was willing to share it. It is an important idea for us to all think about, and I do hope it is shared widely.
        Best wishes,
        Rachel

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