Fire Buffs promote the general welfare of the fire and rescue service and protect its heritage and history. Famous Fire Buffs through the years include New York Fire Surgeon Harry Archer, Boston Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and - legend has it - President George Washington.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Sunday, April 12, 2020


Denver Fire Chief John Healy
On Feb. 17, 1932, fire broke out at the Barnett Building at 16th and Larimer streets in downtown Denver. 

Six firefighters and a watchman suffered burns and smoke inhalation in harsh conditions. Frozen hose spray glazed streets, trolley lines and fire crews while flames roared from above.

The top floors were engulfed.

"Fire Chief Healy, veteran smoke eater and one of the best known firefighters in the country, narrowly escaped death," the Associated Press reported in that day's Evening Gazette of Berkeley, California.


On Sept, 18, 1978, fire gutted F.J. LeGrue & Co., a florist, on South Broadway, Denver. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019


Scene at Broadway and Montana streets

By Butte Fire Chief Peter Sanger
As told to Fire Engineering magazine in 1905

Butte, Montana

At 8:30 o’clock on Sunday morning, September 24, an alarm was received from one of the main business districts of the city. In less than a moment’s time the department arrived at the scene, and found the fire to be in the boiler room, which was located in the sub-basement of the Symons Dry Goods company’s store. A general alarm was then turned in, and in five minutes’ time the whole department was on hand, including thirty-seven men.

The ground floor on Galena street was known as the basement, and was cut through on the alley line with a roadway or passage, open only at one end, over which the three upper stories formed an arch. Beneath this basement, or lower story facing on Galena street, was an excavation the whole length of the building, used as a sub-basement, in the Park street end of which stood the furnace and boiler room, and this was where the tire started.

The boiler room could be entered only by way of the store proper, or by a star, the entrance of which opened on to the arched passage already mentioned. The door to this entrance being heavily barred, and the passage forming a trap for the smoke and flames, it was an impossibility to reach the seat of the fire at once.

The basements were completely filled with stock, and the fire smoldered for some little time; but, after the flames reached the elevator-shaft, they spread rapidly, burning through the upper floors and enveloping the entire building, and made their way to the adjoining building, which included, to the east, the Barret & Jackey block, a two-story brick building, and the Woodworth block, a three-story brick building, which, with the Symons’ store building, were completely ruined, and a one-story brick building, which was partially burned.

All of these buildings ran the whole length of the block from Park to Galena streets. To the west stood the Ogden block, a three-story brick building, facing on Galena street, and running only to the alley. The interior of this building was considerably damaged by smoke and water.

To the south, across Galena street, and to the west, across the southern extension of Academy street, fire broke out in the Paumie block and Renshaw hall, but was soon extinguished in both places, the principal damage resulting from water and smoke.

During the morning a fierce gale was blowing to the northwest, and it was only by the hardest work that the fire was kept from spreading to the buildings on the opposite side of Park street. A firebrand, however, was carried beyond these to the roof of the public library, a three-story brick structure, on the farther side of Academy street, and one block above Park street.

This was burned down to the second story. Owing to the high wind, it looked for a while as though the fire were going to result seriously; but by one o’clock it was well under control, and no further apprehension was felt, upon the part either of the firemen or the citizens.

Assistance was offered us by the different departments throughout the State, and, when the situation was most discouraging, that of the Anaconda department was accepted.  This department promptly responded, bringing a steamer and several thousand feet of hose.

Twenty-eight streams of water were thrown at one time during the course of the fire on Park street and at the library, and the water supply never once gave out. Taking into consideration the location and construction of the building in which the fire started, as well as the strong wind blowing at the time, the termination of the fire must be considered very fortunate and the ensuing loss very small.

Monday, October 14, 2019

SALIDA - 2019

Photo: Sam Del Giudice
Photo: Sam Del Giudice

Smoke plume from Decker wildfire flare-up visible in downtown Salida, Colorado, on Oct. 13 2019. Lightning started the fire more than a month earlier nine miles south of the city. The blaze reached within two miles of the city limits, according to the National Forest Service. Incident commanders withdrew 755 firefighters as the flames gained momentum and called in aerial tankers. By Oct. 14, the fire scorched more than 8,000 acres. 

Friday, October 11, 2019


On Dec. 9, 1928, flames destroyed the Stanton Trust & Savings Bank building in Great Falls, Montana, damaging nearby structures and sending aloft burning embers that started several minor house fires, according to the Great Falls Tribune. The five-story bank building, erected in 1890 of stone, brick and wood, "burned like tinder," the newspaper said. Fire Chief A.J. Trodick rescued a woman from the third floor. The blaze started in the elevator shaft.


Photo: NTSB

On July 3, 2015, a Flight for Life medical helicopter crashed in Frisco, Colorado, killing the pilot and injuring two crew members. The probable cause was a hydraulic issue, the National Transportation Safety Board said. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


Photo: U.S. Army

On March 24, 2018, a fire destroyed two warehouses and damaged a third at the U.S. Army's Pueblo Chemical Depot. No chemicals were involved.


In 1921, fire roared through the business district of Farmington, New Mexico, over the state line from Durango, destroying an ice house, electric plant and flour mill.  The townsfolk pitched into battle the blaze, according to Fire Engineering magazine. No injuries reported.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


Site of September 1957 fire
Photo: Wikipedia

Rocky Flats Fire Department in April 1987.
Photo: U.S. Energy Department
Rocky Flats was a dangerous place to work and suffered a secret September 11 disaster in the late 1950s.

The federal government's now-shuttered industrial site near Denver fabricated components for nuclear weapons, such as bomb triggers.

Due to the danger, the facility fielded its own fire department.

On Sept. 11, 1957, the spontaneous combustion of plutonium inside a processing unit started a fire that poured contamination over the Denver region.

It was "the first major plutonium fire in a United States weapons laboratory," according to the Energy Department.

Firefighters tried and failed to douse the blaze with carbon dioxide and eventually knocked down the flames with water.

It was the Cold War-era and the government hid the incident from the public under the guise of top secrecy.

Another fire broke out under similar circumstance on May 11, 1969, though the level of contamination was less than 1957.

Officials were more forthright about that incident.

The Rocky Flats Fire Department - based at Building 331 - disbanded in 2005 after the government completed decontamination of the site.


Excerpt of Energy Department historical summary:

At 10:10 p.m. on September 11, 1957, the smell of burning rubber led two Rocky Flats Plant guards in Building 71 to a glovebox emitting eighteen-inch flames in Room 180.

At the time of the fire, Building 71 (also called "C Plant" and, later, Building 771) was an essential component of the Rocky Flats Plant. 

Designed for work with delta-phase plutonium, Building 71 opened in 1953 to recover plutonium for hydrogen bomb triggers.

The September 1957 fire, apparently caused by the spontaneous ignition of a small amount of alpha-plutonium turnings or skulls (metallic casting residues), soon spread along the Plexiglas and set off a chain of events.

Additional building personnel and Rocky Flats Plant firefighters arrived at the scene of the fire two minutes after the guards alerted them, but the time they spent donning protective clothing and debating the best course of action delayed them from combating the flames for ten minutes.

A fire department lieutenant wanted to douse the flames with water, but both a building production shift supervisor and a plant health physicist initially rejected that plan out of fear of inducing criticality.

Workers tried, unsuccessfully, to put out the fire with available carbon dioxide extinguishers.

Firefighters eventually sprayed water on the Room 180 fire and extinguished it safely.

During that interval, however, unburned combustible gases apparently passed under pressure through ventilation ductwork and ignited the filters in the building's exhaust filter plenum.

Minutes after firefighters put out the Room 180 fire, the exhaust system exploded.

On order of the health physics supervisor, everyone evacuated the building to escape plutonium contamination, which spread throughout the building and out through the ventilation system.

Outside the building, observers saw a "very dark" smoke plume, 80 to 100 feet high, billow from the stack.

Arriving at the site after the evacuation, the section superintendent ordered the firefighters to concentrate on extinguishing the filter fire, although several minor rekindlings at the original site also occurred.

At 11:10 p.m., Building 71's electrical power failed, the darkness hampering all efforts. By late the next morning, most of the filter bank and the alpha-phase interim facility in Room 180 had been destroyed.

During the final hours of the fire, Rocky Flats personnel discovered burning cylinders of nickel carbonyl inside the exhaust plenum and cooled them with water.

The nickel carbonyl was used to provide a protective nickel coating to plutonium components so they could be handled in the open with less risk of personnel exposure to contamination or build up of static electricity.

A production section superintendent subsequently directed employees to place all the carbonyl cylinders in drums and temporarily bury the drums outside in a pit.

Thirteen hours after the guards first discovered flames, firefighters succeeded in totally extinguishing the fire at 11:28 a.m. on September 12.


Photo: Denver Fire Department
On Easter Sunday 1983, Denver's hazmat team used ingenuity to contain a spill from a ruptured railroad tank car that set off a poisonous plume. 

They employed a diesel snow blaster from Stapleton Airport to pour piles of a neutralizing soda ash on 20,000 gallons of nitric acid deposited on the grounds of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad yard, Fire Engineering magazine reported.

A late season snowfall also helped dampen the effects, United Press International reported. 

According to a National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the accident: "The switch crew was moving 17 cars when a coupler broke on the 4th car, leading to an undetected separation of 150 feet between the 3rd and 4th cars.

"The engineer, responding to a hand lamp signal from the foreman, accelerated the locomotive, with a caboose, an empty freight car, and a loaded tank car coupled ahead.

"The loaded tank car impacted a fourth car at a speed of about 10-12 mph."

A fire accompanied the spill.

Billows of the chemical
prompted the evacuation of as many as 9,000 people, based on NTSB estimates.

Fumes threatened downtown Denver and closed Interstates 25 and 70.

"The one tremendous break that we got was that the wind was blowing to the south down the Platte River Valley, which acted to contain the hazardous yellow cloud in an area that is very sparsely populated," Denver Fire Chief Myrle K. Wise wrote in Fire Engineering.

United Press International reported: "
Civil Defense sirens, police with loudspeakers and radio broadcasts were credited with giving residents quick warning so they could escape."

Nonetheless, 34 people were injured, the NTSB said. 

The New York Times reported: "Many people appeared to ignore the hazard. Several churches in central Denver went ahead with Easter morning services as scheduled."

Easter Sunday 1983 fell on April 3.

Initial Fire Department Response - 4:11 a.m.

Pumpers 9, 4, 7
Truck 4
District Chief 6

Hazmat Response
Station 6, Squad 1

According to The Chemical Company: "Nitric acid is used in the production of ammonium nitrate for fertilizers, making plastics, and in the manufacture of dyes. It is also used for making explosives such as nitroglycerin and TNT."

Monday, October 7, 2019


Photo: Western Heritage Center
On July 26, 1935, a fire and explosion at the Yale Oil Co. refinery near Billings, Montana, killed four people and injured five others, according to the Billings Gazette.  A welding torch ignited fumes in an empty railroad tank car. Firefighter Lucien B. Smith lost his brother, Leon, in the blaze, according to the Gazette. It was Smith's first fire.

Friday, October 4, 2019


Photo: Denver Fire Department
Oshkosh Airport Products delivered its 5,000th aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle to Denver International Airport in September. Oshkosh manufactured its first ARFF rig in 1953. DIA's Striker 8x8 features twin rear-mounted engines. The Denver Fire Department operates five airport stations, numbered 31-35.

Monday, September 30, 2019


Photo: Colorado Air National Guard

A crash at Stapleton Airport led to major reforms at the Denver Fire Department.


Updated Oct. 2, 2019

Thursday, September 26, 2019

PUEBLO - 1945

On May 9, 1945, Pueblo firefighter Joseph F. Robida died when a Rainbo Bread truck crashed into the rear of Engine Company 4.

Robida, 41, suffered a skull fracture.

Firefighter Joseph Ferraro, riding on the back-step with Robida, was injured. The bread truck driver was also hurt.

The collision occurred at intersection of Mesa and Lake as Engine 4 was responding to an alarm at 512 Acero Avenue, according to the Pueblo Fire Museum.

Robida -- nicknamed "Beets" -- was the son of Yugoslav immigrants. He earned his nickname for one of his many jobs, hauling beets.

Robida's son John, a schoolboy at the time of the accident, said in a 2015 interview with the Chieftain newspaper:

I was confused, but I had a lot of uncles and they helped us. They told me ‘God needed a firefighter in heaven. God came down and took your dad.’ I thought that was an honor, and it helped me with my pain.”  

Recalling the funeral, he told the Chieftain:

Firefighters from Denver, Colorado Springs and all over attended. It was a major event. I thought my dad was kind of a president."


Photos: Fort Collins Public Library, Poudre Valley Fire Authority

On June 29, 1965, Clifford Carpenter, Fort Collins fire chief, was killed by falling bricks and mortar at the State Dry Goods store fire.

Carpenter, 49, was directing hose lines at the building College and Oak streets when an exterior wall gave way, according to the Fort Collins History Connection and Poudre Valley Fire Authority.

Firefighter Jim Witchel was injured.

The cause was determined to be an electrical timer that controlled the lights in the dry goods store show window.

Newspapers published photographs of the chief, in his white helmet, in the seconds leading to his death.

According to the Poudre Fire Authority, successor of the Fort Collins Fire Department:

"At about 9:30 p.m., an electrical timer that controlled the lights in the show window of the State Dry Goods store at College Avenue and Oak Street malfunctioned and the brief shower of sparks ignited combustible material. 

"The fire quickly spread, but was not immediately noticed because the darkly painted walls of the show window made the interior of the store invisible from the sidewalk.

"The fire burned for about an hour, slowly increasing the interior pressure to the point where one of the large windows exploded, showering shards of glass across the sidewalk and into the middle of the street.

"The oxygen that was sucked inside, caused the interior to erupt into an inferno.  By the time the Fire Department arrived, the building was fully involved.

"Mutual aid was requested from the LaPorte Volunteer Fire Department, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Loveland Fire Department.  All off-duty firefighters were called in as well.
"Chief Carpenter was notified of the alarm via the telephone extension installed in his home and responded to take command.

"He noticed that the south wall had a slight bulge in the middle and decided to go around to the south side to order the men handling the lines to back off.

"As he and Firefighter Jim Witchel took a 1 1/2 inch charged line in close to the building to check the area where the gas meters were located, the wall collapsed covering Witchel and Carpenter with bricks and stone." 

Edward Yonker was appointed to replace Carpenter as fire chief.

Store owner Bob Johnson, in an oral history documented by his daughter Diane Thornton, recalled:

ot only was most of our merchandise and building destroyed that night in the fire, all of our accounts and debts owed to us were burned as well. We had no record of who owed us what, and we had no way to track it down. As my brother-in-law and I worked to rebuild what we had lost, a miraculous thing occurred. Every day people of our town would stop by to give us money they owed to the department store.

"That's Fort Collins. The buildings come and go. But the people, the people have made this into a great city of big dreams and even bigger integrity."

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


Three-thousand people fled a fire that destroyed the grandstands at the Western Montana Fair in Missoula on Aug. 21, 1941. The fire also destroyed a livestock building, automobiles and "the tepee village of the Flathead Indian tribe," the United Press reported. Horses and other livestock were cut loose and trotted away with the rest of the crowd.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Photo: Fire Engineering
On Feb. 26, 1917, fire gutted Pueblo Central High School, toppling the western wall.

Firefighters were forced out when flames overtook the stairwells and battled the blaze from ladders set on slushy snow. 
The high school had open hallways and no fire stops along the roof, allowing the fire to rage. 

The Pueblo Chieftain newspaper said the fire broke out on the 
fourth floor along Orman Avenue and spread to a new addition, which included an auditorium.

Fire Chief Sam Christy "was obliged to use all engine streams, the pressure at the hydrants being only 40 pounds and the nearest plugs requiring not less than 500 feet of hose," according to the magazine Fire Engineering. "He used seven engine streams, having 3,100 feet of hose in use, one length bursting." 

The following apparatus attended the fire, according to the magazine:

1 Metropolitan pumping engine
1 Victor motor pumping engine
3 combination hose and chemical wagons
2 two LaFrance hose and chemical wagons
1 75-foot aerial ladder truck.

Monday, September 23, 2019


On Dec. 17, 1916, a fire at the downtown Inter-Ocean Hotel in Cheyenne, Wyoming, killed a family of six and destroyed the building. The father was electrocuted after falling on a power line; the mother and the couple's four sons suffocated.

The following account was published in the Casper Star-Tribune: 

Thursday, September 19, 2019


Citizens formed a old-time bucket brigade to stop a fire from destroying a swath of Elizabeth, Colorado, on March 14, 1947.

The city lacked an organized fire department.

Denver, Aurora, Littleton and Castle Rock sent crews after an appeal from the town's telephone operator.

 A faulty acetylene torch was the likely cause of the fire at Jones Motor Co., 381 Kiowa Ave., according to municipal files.

Friday, September 13, 2019


Photo: Lowry Foundation website

Fire station at Denver's Lowry Field of the U.S. Army Air Corps - later U.S. Air Force - in 1945.


Photo: Denver Fire Dept.

In September 2019, the Denver Fire Department sent Wildfire Engine 301 and a crew of four to southern California on a long-distance mutual aid run.

Monday, September 9, 2019


From March 5, 1930 edition of Fire Engineering:

Guy Walker, Deputy Chief of Denver, Colo., was scalded on the right side and right leg when he stepped into a vat of boiling water while the department was fighting a fire in a crate and basket plant.

Lights had been turned off. Chief Walker was making his way through a dark, smoke-filled room when he stumbled into the vat used for steaming logs. He got out unassisted. and after receiving emergency treatment, was taken to the Denver General Hospital.

Thursday, September 5, 2019


Photo: FBI
On Nov. 1, 1955, a bomb blast tore through United Airlines Flight 629 bound for Portland  from Stapleton Airport in Denver. The DC-6 aircraft crashed near Longmont,  killing all 44 aboard. Eyewitness Bud Lang said it  "looked like a shooting star coming down." There was little for rescuers to do except recover bodies. The bomber was tried and executed within 15 months for planting the bomb to collect on a life insurance policy on his mother, a passenger on the flight.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019


Does lightning strike just once? 

On June 17, 1921, it set ablaze the Midwest Refining Co. tank farm in Casper, Wyoming.

Flames raged for 48 hours and consumed 360,000 barrels of oil even after application of chemicals, according to the Associated Press.

Casper "was darkened by billows of smoke which spread over it," the Ogden Standard-Examiner, a Utah newspaper, reported. "The blaze continued under a downpour of rain which approached a cloudburst. ... More than one thousand men were rushed to the scene to protect other tanks."

Lightning struck again on July 2, 13 and 18,  according to
History of Natrona County, Wyoming.

Monday, September 2, 2019


Early 20th Century photo of  Johnson Hotel at corner of Grand and Front

On March 15, 1955, a fire at the Johnson Hotel in Laramie, Wyoming, killed six men - including a retired rodeo rider who performed in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show.

"The stairs were a sheet of flame," survivor Alfred Warner said. "I climbed out the window and hung onto the hotel sign."

The blaze - blamed on a cigarette - started behind the lobby on the main floor of the building at 103 Grand St.

Guest rooms occupied the top floor of the two-story brick structure, built in the early 1900s.

The Laramie Fire Department received the call for help at 3 a.m.

Fire Chief Blake Fanning told the Boomerang newspaper:

"When we arrived smokes was pouring out all the front windows of the building and men were leaning from the windows, hanging from the two signs at the front and shouting from the roof of the adjoining building.

"The heat was so terrific we couldn't get in the upstairs and we couldn't reach the inside rooms where we could hear men yelling."

Among the dead was retired rodeo rider Ed "Boots" Smith, who toured Europe in the early 1900s as a member of the Buffalo Bill Cody and Gandy Brothers Wild West shows, according to a wire service report. 
Three others were injured and 12 escaped.

Sunday, September 1, 2019


On Aug. 8, 1927, a roaring three-alarm arson fire gutted an auto dealership owned by football star and aviator Don Hogan at 1227 Broadway in Denver - and Hogan plead guilty to the crime before the year was out.

Prosecutors accused Hogan of intending to defraud the Mercantile Insurance Company of America, which insured the property, according to a dispatch in the Daily Times of Longmont.

Two of his employees, Rex Conley and Joe Crenshaw, were also arrested.

The trio was charged two weeks later.

Twenty five cars and the entire stock of parts were destroyed.

The three alarms brought 200 Denver firefighters and 27 pieces of apparatus to the scene.

Truck driver Paul Dretzler, of 4601 Williams St., Denver, spotted the fire at about 2 a.m., and told police two men tried to stop him from turning in the alarm from a fire box.

Flames also damaged the adjacent Stephan-Miller Inc. at 1225 Broadway and Permo Washing Co. at 1235 Broadway.

After pleading guilty on Oct 29, Hogan "left in his own car immediately for Canyon City in custody of a deputy sheriff" to serve his prison sentence, according to a United Press dispatch. 


On Jan. 26, 1916, a basement fire sent smoke billowing through St. Joseph's Hospital in Denver. Patients fled via a snow-covered fire escape. Several sisters and firemen were overcome by smoke, according to the Telluride Daily Journal.

On Feb. 14, 1906, fire burned through the ceiling of the laundry at city and county hospital, the Aspen Daily Times reported.

On March 8, 1920, fire ignited by sparks from a power plant smokestack destroyed the men's building housing 40 patients at the Jewish Consumptives' Relief Society, the Oak Creek Times said. 

Friday, August 30, 2019


On New Year's Day 1942, fire tore through a swath of downtown Miussoula, Montana - destroying the Shaphard Hotel, Gamble Stores and Yandt's Men's Wear. Flames brought down the hotel roof. Note the limited number of hose lines in these photographs.


Photo: Pueblo Fire Museum

On Oct. 23, 2007, flames shooting 50 feet into the sky destroyed the abandoned Pueblo Storage Warehouse.

A passerby stopped at Fire Station No.1 just after midnight to sound the alarm, which brought 10 engines and aerial ladders to the scene. The blaze was contained at about 2:50 a.m.  The roof and second-story floor collapsed.

The ice house at 205 West Elizabeth Street had been condemned three years earlier but transients used it for shelter.

The Chieftain newspaper reported:

"It was not the building’s first brush with disaster.
"Formerly known as Mountain Ice and Coal Co. - founded in 1896 - an empty 100-gallon water heater exploded and ruptured an ammonia pipe in February 1980.
"Lynn L. Belcher, 81, the company’s former president of 40 years, died from injuries sustained in the explosion.
"A police sergeant and Pueblo Chieftain sports writer Mike Spence were hospitalized when an ammonia cloud swept through the Midtown Shopping Center, forcing a nine-block evacuation.
"In 1908, the building burned and was quickly restored; no injuries were reported."


Photo: Poudre Fire Authority Facebook page 

Community Service in 1930s

"Fort Collins firefighters are posing with some of the toys they have gathered to recondition and give underprivileged children for Christmas. This community service project began during Chief Thomas P. Treadwell's tenure and would last for almost 40 years."

- Poudre Fire Authority Facebook page

Thursday, August 29, 2019

GREELEY - 2006

Photo: Greeley Fire Department facebook page
Greeley Fire Department battles blaze at seed company during February 2006 blizzard.


Photo: Denver Public Library 

Fire Engineering
Oct. 1, 1921

Denver, Colo.—A fire at the Denver stock yards, July 11th, brought forth the appeals of a special alarm. However, later events proved that this was done for precautionary measures and not because of any necessity.

The cattle became frantic, the same as you and I would, if flames were creeping upon us from behind, and the poor things bellowed piteously.

The fire laddies succeeded in opening the pens, and then the animals stampeded, as was expected, but to enable the men to work upon the fire it was necessary to drive the cattle out of the way and that was done by playing several streams of water upon them.

During the time necessary to do this, Fire Chief John Healy sent the special alarm and later on he said:

“I thought when I first saw the fire that it was going to sweep the whole yards. Because of the struggling and bellowing cattle, it gave us one of the hardest fights I have ever participated in. I believe that the firse started from a cigar or a match dropped from the run-away over the pen.”

Owing to the splendid work of the fire department, only four of the dumb beasts were destroyed and the loss it is stated may be covered by five thousand dollars.

Anyone caught smoking in such a place ought to be soused in a hog trough.


On Oct. 21, 1908, fire destroyed a five-story grain elevator at the Hungarian Mills at Seventh Street and Wazee streets in Denver's lower downtown.

The plant was named for a milling process developed in Hungary.

Flames were beyond the reach of Denver Fire Department hose lines and roared out of control for an hour, according to the Herald Democrat of Leadville. "The height of the building made it difficult to throw water to the top," the newspaper said.

As the mill burned, the office staff rescued the books and workers struggled to save anything that wasn't nailed down.

The Nov. 25, 1908 edition of Fire Engineering magazine said:

"When Chief T. F. Owens and the department arrived on the scene, they found that the fire, which had been set in the wagon shed and had spread thence to the bottom of an air-flue, was blazing furiously. It had made its way up the flue and involved 75 ft. of the roof."

The magazine said the bulk of the city's fire apparatus responded:

"The alarm brought to the spot six engines a Continental, a Silsby, an American LaFrance and 3 Metropolitan — with, of course, hose wagons and aerial and other trucks.

"The apparatus kept throwing continuously nineteen streams (four being hydrant) through 7,750 ft. of cotton, rubber-lined hose, which was of such first rate quality that it withstood the heavy strain on it for so long a time without one single length showing the slightest sign of weakness.

"Besides the ordinary 1 1/4-in. nozzles used, there were also brought to bear upon the flames streams from an Eastman Deluge set and two Hart nozzles ... the water supply is gravity, furnished by the Denver Union Waterworks company."

Fire also visited the Hungarian Mills on March 7, 1899, "rendering nearly valueless 500 bushels of wheat," the Leadville Herald Democrat reported. The fire originated in a dust room. "The work of the firemen was retarded by frozen water pipes," the newspaper said.

Fires also struck the Hungarian Mills on Nov. 21, 1930, April 27, 1943, Dec. 21, 1949 and Oct. 26, 1952.   


Old Fire Station 15 in Congress Park
Forty percent of Denver's firefighting force had four legs in 1906. Total staffing consisted of 180 full-time firefighters and about 70 fire horses, according to the Dec. 29, 1906 edition of Fire Engineering magazine. 

Friday, August 2, 2019


On July 6, 1994, the 
Storm King Mountain wildfire claimed the lives of 14 forest service firefighters - the greatest loss of life in Colorado fire service history. Lightning touched off the blaze two days earlier. Shifting winds fanned flames that trapped the firefighters.


Glenwood Springs, Colo. (AP) - A swift wildfire whipped by high winds roared over a steep mountainside, trapping 50 firefighters. Twelve were killed and two were missing today in one of the country's deadliest such disasters.

The firefighters were trapped Wednesday about 7,000 feet up the rugged slope of Storm King Mountain, where the rough terrain left them no place to flee, said Garfield County Undersheriff Levy Burris.

The survivors escaped to burned-over ground where the fire could not take hold, then straggled out when the danger passed, Gov. Roy Romer said at a news conference Wednesday night.

This morning, he said the initial count of 11 dead had risen to 12, and two firefighters were still missing.

"The search will begin just as soon as daylight arrives," Romer said. 
"It just reminds us all of the great tragedy that can occur when you're dealing with fire," he said.

He said the families of the firefighters had not been notified because the victims had not been positively identified.

Romer called for an investigation to determine why so many lives were lost. Weather forecasters had predicted high winds, but firefighters were left in the field.

Fire officials said some of the victims apparently had tried to climb into their fire-shelters, shiny blankets used as shields during flare-ups.

The lightning-sparked fire began Sunday, five miles west of Glenwood Springs. The mountain resort of 6,000 people is between Aspen and Vail about 180 miles west of Denver.

The fire had been confined to 50 acres until high winds fanned it out of control Wednesday afternoon. Within five hours, it grew to 2,000 acres.


From U.S. Fire Administration

On July 6, fourteen wildland firefighters lost their lives when a wind shift resulted in a blow-up fire condition that trapped them on the uphill and downwind position from the fire on Storm King Mountain, Colorado.

The fourteen firefighters included smokejumpers Don Mackey, Roger Roth, and James Thrash; Prineville Hot Shots John Kelso, Kathi Beck, Scott Blecha, Levi Brinkley, Bonnie Holtby, Rob Johnson, Tami Bickett, Doug Dunbar, and Terri Hagen; and helitack crew members Richard Tyler and Robert Browning.

Browning and Tyler were killed when their escape route was cut off by a large drop and they were overrun by the fire.

The other firefighters were killed as they moved towards the ridge line to escape the fire advancing towards them from below.

According to witness accounts, the firefighters were unable to see how dangerous their position had become because of a small ridge below them.

They had been moving slowly and were still carrying their equipment as the fire blew up behind them to a height of over 100 feet.

At this point the crew dropped their tools and made an uphill dash for the top of the mountain but only one person made it over to survive.

The fire overran the remaining twelve firefighters and reportedly reached a height of 200 to 300 feet as it crossed over the ridge.

It was estimated to be moving at between 10 and 20 miles per hour at the time of the blow-up.

Several other firefighters in various other locations on the mountain became trapped by the flames but were able to make it to safe positions or deploy their emergency shelters.

Post incident investigations have determined that the crews fighting the fire violated many safety procedures and standard firefighting orders.

Thursday, August 1, 2019


Photo: Brighton Fire Rescue

Photo: Brighton Fire Rescue

On Feb. 8, 2019, flames destroyed the abandoned Arthur Grain Mill on Main Street in Brighton. A squatter's cigarette caused the blaze, investigators said.

Photo: Brighton Fire Rescue

On July 31, 2019, Brighton firefighters battled flames at the vacant Robb's Inc. store with exterior lines after a floor collapse. A firefighter was injured.