New Castle blaze sparks Storm King memories

John GardnerGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

GLENWOOD SPRINGS July 6, 1994, lives in the memories of the community.Firefighters will never forget, and residents of Glenwood Springs will always remember the fire on Storm King.”I think it’s always in the back of your mind,” said former Glenwood Springs Mayor Bob Zanella. “Once you’ve witnessed something like that, every time you see a wildfire on the news like what happened in California [Lake Tahoe], you can sympathize with those people and know what they’re going through.”

The New Castle Fire in June was a close reminder of the incident that took the lives of 14 firefighters on Storm King Mountain 13 years ago. Memories remain strong to area firefighters – even without new threats in close proximity to Storm King – but the New Castle Fire just brought those memories to the forefront.Being an incident commander on the New Castle Fire, Glenwood Fire Chief Mike Piper said Storm King was definitely on his mind that day.”Absolutely,” Piper said. “It’s in front of you and in the back of your mind all the time as a firefighter. When you’re standing in front of Storm King, you think of what happened that day for the safety of the firefighters.”The lessons of the Storm King Fire are ever present in wildland firefighting now, Piper said. And it serves as a constant reminder of the dangers and how quickly the situation can turn for the worse.

“Being on this last fire, Storm King is so much a part of the decision-making on the fire,” Piper said. “In planning and making sure that all the people and crews know the plan.”Piper wasn’t in Glenwood during the Storm King Fire – he was a firefighter on the Front Range. But the effects from the day resonate throughout the firefighting community and among Glenwood Springs residents, he said.”The fire service is one community,” Piper said. “We all are one community, and it is something that we will never forget. But, something like Storm King is important for a community to remember, too, and there are a lot of people around here that remember.”

Zanella, too, remembers that particular day, 13 years ago. And the New Castle Fire that made that day seem like yesterday.”It did bring it back,” Zanella said. “You realize what happened and think back on it.”Zanella said when he saw the smoke of the New Castle Fire he took a drive to get a better look at what was going on. During that drive, the memories of Storm King came rushing back.”Something like that you never forget,” he said.


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