GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. A burst of lightning ignited what is known as the deadliest fire in the history of Colorado and is now known around the nation, the South Canyon Fire also referred to as the Storm King Fire.
The flames seemed containable in the beginning and covered less than 100 acres in 48 hours, but things took a turn for the worse on July 6, 1994.
"When that wind came it got from the lower ground fuels and it was just like a timber fire it ran across the top of those,” said Bureau of Land Management official Chris Farinetti who has studied the fire to learn about things they can do differently when fighting fires today.
The blaze then got out of control; it grew at a rapid pace, close to 9ft. per second.
"Most of them had to get into fire shelters," said Farinetti.
Richard Tyler was one of the 14 firefighters who lost his life that day, and he left behind a 1 year old son named Andrew.
The now 21 year old said he takes pride knowing his dad was doing his job to try to protect the community when he died.
“They were the first in to the fire to try and get it controlled," said Tyler about his dad’s job as a helitack foreman.
This year's anniversary has even more of an impact on him now that he is old enough to fully understand what happened that day.
"It's just the magnitude of the fire and what they were doing up there, hiking the trail it seems incredible that they were doing that," said Tyler.
He said it's comforting to know that his dad's death has saved countless other lives with the changes that have been made as a result of the south canyon fire.
There have been several big changes to the way fires were fought after the South Canyon fire, the biggest according to Farinetti is firefighters and managers now have the ability to say no to fighting a fire, if they don’t like the risks associated with it.
"Look outs communications escape routes and safety zones, we live by that now you make sure those are in place and if we don’t have communications or any of those others in place then we don't engage fires," said Farinetti.
Richard along with the13 others are leaving behind their legacy as hero's who lost their lives to protect others
"It's good to remember that these are real people with real families going up on the mountains to fight these fires trying to defend people's homes," said Tyler.