Fishing trip turns into scramble for life |

Fishing trip turns into scramble for life

Paul Conrad

CARBONDALE ” A fishing trip turned into a scramble for survival Tuesday when three friends were nearly overtaken by the fast-moving wildfire near the Ranch at Roaring Fork subdivision.

Larry Garfinkel, 61, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., received burns to the back of his head and to an arm, according to one of his fishing companions, Tom Greenup, of Couderay, Wis. Garfinkel was taken to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, where he was in stable condition, Greenup said.

The three men were enjoying a day on the Roaring Fork River and saw smoke rising in the morning, but didn’t feel endangered, Greenup said. As the smoke intensified in the afternoon, they began making their way toward the Ranch at Roaring Fork, where they are staying in a friend’s condominium.

The fire blew out of control shortly after noon, and strong winds pushed it to the north, toward the river from its point of origin along Catherine Store Road. Greenup said the men ran to escape the flames.

“It came right down on us, big time,” he said.

It was difficult to breath and difficult to see, but the men kept their bearings and headed toward Highway 82. At one point, Greenup and the third man in the group, Chuck Hyatt, realized that Garfinkel wasn’t with them. Hyatt went back and found Garfinkel sitting in the river after the flames had scorched him. Hyatt got Garfinkel to his feet and, with Greenup, dragged him to safety.

Several motorists stopped along Highway 82 near the Ranch at Roaring Fork witnessed a dramatic moment when the fishermen emerged from the wooded wetlands along the river with flames leaping around them. Greenup and Hyatt helped Garfinkel over the concrete barrier, then the wounded man slumped down onto the shoulder. Several witnesses ran to his aid and offered comfort for a short time until an ambulance arrived.

Greenup and Hyatt hitched a ride from a motorist and were waiting at the Red Rock Diner in Carbondale Tuesday night to see if it was safe to return to Ranch at Roaring Fork.

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