On July 6, 1994, a wildfire trapped 14 firefighters on Storm King Mountain as winds shifted unexpectedly leaving them unable to outrun the blaze. 12 of them were overtaken by the flames on the hillside while 2 more perished on the northwest side of the ridge.
Several years ago, my son and I journeyed to Glenwood Springs Colorado to pay our respects to the 14 brave firefighters who lost their lives while fighting this raging fire. We hiked the trail on Storm King Mountain which leads to the sites where the fallen heroes had been overcome by the wildfire. When we entered the Storm King 14 trailhead you could feel we were in for something special as we signed in and read the dedication plaque honoring the fallen firefighters.
After hiking up the steep terrain, we could see in the distance the grave markers along the mountainside. As we approached them you could see all the gifts left behind by those who came to pay their respects. Then, I realized this was an actual site where a brave hero lost their life to protect others. A tear came down my face as I looked around and saw one grave then another grave as all 12 grave markers came into view including 2 more on the top of the ridge.
As we hiked up the steep ridge, we realized this was the actually area where the 14 raced up the hillside as the rapidly spreading fire was ragging below them. A witness reported that the flames reached 200 - 300 feet as they crossed over the ridgeline and overtook the firefighters.
When I realized I was standing where these heroes gave their lives in order to protect others, I was overwhelmed with emotions. My thoughts were drawn to the courageous soul as we placed some things on the sites, trying to imagine what he experienced as he climbed the steep hillside as flames and heat chased him up.
After paying our respects, I said a prayer for all these heroes and all the other firefighters across our nation. While hiking the last part of the trail, I wondered how we could thank firefighters, especially the 14 heroes who lost their lives there. A few minutes later, we saw a long line of hikers approaching in single file. It didn't take long for me to realize they were firefighters as they got closer. What an incredible opportunity to say thanks to them up here. We found out they were training that day on very hallowed ground!
Prineville Hotshots: Kathi Beck, Tamera Bickett, Scott Blecha, Levi Brinkley, Douglas Dunbar, Terri Hagen, Bonnie Holtby, Rob Johnson, Jon Kelso
Missoula Smokejumper: Don Mackey
McCall Smokejumpers: Roger Roth, Jim Thrash
Helitack: Robert Browning, Jr., Richard Tyler
It is so easy to take things for granted in our lives. Sometimes, a tragedy happens that will remind us how blessed we are. These 14 brave souls gave their lives to protect property and lives. They deserve to be honored and remembered.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 (KJVA)
In honor of the 14 brave souls watch this video from our journey on hallowed ground.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Move on.