Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Photo: Getty Images

On Oct. 3, 1978, disaster struck a refinery on the outskirts of Denver, claiming three lives.

Commerce City, Colo. (UPI) -- The night shift was in its final hours at the Continental Oil Co. refinery and Gary Thomas glanced at his watch, noting the time was 6:33 a.m. MDT.

Then the explosion came, louder than anything Thomas ever had heard.

Flames and black smoke billowed into the sky. Two workers at the plant were dead beneath the debris, a third was left dying and another nine were injured.

Thomas reacted with his only purpose to get away from the refinery.

"I started running," Thomas said. "There was one massive explosion."

Flames shot 60 feet above blackened refinery stacks. Gas fumes leaking from newly installed equipment had ignited in a ball of fire, shattering windows in the industrial suburb north of Denver and shaking homes many miles away.

Tuesday's explosion registered 3.5 on the Richter scale at the Regis College seismological observatory in Denver, and 1.5 at the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden.

Three Conoco employees -- STEVE FRENCH, 24, DAVID HOBBS, 32, and RON DeHERRERA 
-- died in the explosion, said Thomas, the plant personnel manager. Nine other men suffered injuries: six remained at Denver hospitals today in conditions varying from serious to satisfactory.

Hundreds of firefighters from throughout the Denver area, arriving before the 6:56 a.m. sunrise brought the fire under control in three hours.

Police received an anonymous telephone call that the explosion was caused by a bomb, but a search found no device and police discounted the report.

Plant manager Robert Alexander said the explosion occurred in a polymerization unit at the refinery that had been in operation only two weeks. He said the plant was 25 percent destroyed and estimated damage at up to $5 million.

Employees in the unit, which converts petroleum into gasoline, propane and butane, had reported mechanical trouble during the night and had called in a company fire engine as a precaution. Thirteen men were at the plant when the explosion occurred, Alexander said.

"There was a release of hydrocarbon vapor, a propane and butane mixture, in the unit and it ignited," said Alexander. "What ignited the vapor, I don't know."

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


A bear cub sought refuge in a tree during a forest fire in the mountains of New Mexico in 1950 and the firefighters who found the cub and named him Smokey.

LARAMIE - 1948

On April 14, 1948, fire leveled a downtown block in Laramie, Wyoming.

At the height of the blaze, flames were visible for miles.

The Associated Press reported:

A fast spreading fire crackled through an entire business block early today in the downtown section of Laramie, site of the University of Wyoming.

Fifteen of 30 structures were unofficially reported destroyed by flames.

Discovered about 2 o'clock (MST) this morning, the flames were reported under control but not out three hours after they were discovered in the four-story brick W. H. Holliday Building.

Fire departments sped to Laramie from Cheyenne, Rawlins and Fort Francis E. Warren, in Wyoming, and Fort Collins, Colo., to help overwhelmed Laramie firemen and volunteers battle the blaze.

Troops from Fort Warren, 50 miles east of here at Cheyenne, National Guard members and Wyoming University ROTC students were pressed into service to prevent looting.

There were no early reports of casualties. Fifteen or 20 families lived in hotels in the flaming area. The Red Cross arranged to house them in a university 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Photo: photosourcewest

By Vinny Del Giudice

On Nov. 15, 1987, Continental Airlines Flight 1713 crashed as it departed 
Denver's Stapleton International Airport
 in a snowstorm, killing 28 people and injuring 54 others.

It was Stapleton's deadliest accident.

Airport fire stations No. 1 and No. 2 were alerted to the crash by the control tower at 2:16 p.m. and responded with five crash trucks and 12 firefighters,  according to the National Transportation Safety Board report on the accident.

A full first alarm for city stations was transmitted at 2:21 p.m., followed by a second alarm at 2:33 p.m. and a third alarm at 3 p.m, the NTSB said, with Aurora, Sable Altura, Glendale and Thornton providing mutual aid.

``The plane skidded out of control for about a quarter of a mile before sliding off the runway northeast of the main terminal'' and ''flipped onto its back and broke into three pieces,'' The New York Times reported. 

``The whole fuselage twisted like a chicken whose neck was wrung,'' said Richard Boulware, an airport official quoted by the Los Angeles Times.

Firefighters worked for 2 1/2 hours to free survivors from the wreckage of the DC-9 jetliner after extinguishing several fires.

"They were digging them out row by row," said Joe Cipri, a firefighter quoted by the Associated Press. "Some were screaming, but most people were real calm - just waiting their turns to get out." One victim yelled "Get me out of here" but was dead by the time firefighters reached him, Cipri said.

The NTSB said rescuers worked to reach 18-20 victims near the broken left wing and used wooden cribbing and a forklift  to support the intact right wing, which as full of fuel. Firefighter Rory Moore said it was "a horrible feeling - a helpless feeling" trying to reach so many people.

Investigators concluded icing and crew error contributed to the crash of Flight 1713, which was bound for Boise, Idaho. The pilot and co-pilot were among the dead and it wasn't clear if the aircraft left the ground. 
"If it got off, it was not far enough for it to be detected by radar," said Fred Farrar, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Survivor  Robert Linck told People Magazine:

``Everything was smooth until we lifted off, then the plane started shaking violently. There was an explosion, and a ball of fire shot up through the floor, sheer white heat, enveloping the two rows ahead of me. I said, ‘I think we’ve had it.’ I tried to stand up, get away from the flames. That’s how I got the [second-degree] burns on my hands. I heard three explosions, then the lights went out and people started screaming. First the right wing dropped, and then the left wing dropped. I think the pilot over-corrected to the left. The plane flipped.

``In that last blinding second before we hit, I only thought one thing: I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. We smacked the ground with an impact so severe—I’ve been hit hard playing football but never like that. In the minutes after, there was not a single sound. It was utterly silent and totally black. That, believe me, was frightening. I was lying flat on my chest and I couldn’t see a thing. I wondered if that fireball had set the plane on fire, if I’d be burned to death. Then somebody, a passenger or a ground crewman, came through and said not to panic, there was no fire.''

Another survivor  recalled the impact.

The metal was starting to tear apart. I thought about a crash in Reno where some kid survived because he was thrown from the plane still in his seat,'' said Douglas Self , quoted by the Los Angeles Times. ``The next thing I remember, I was in the field. I was in my chair. There were two chairs intact. I was sort of on my side, and the man in the other chair was over my shoulder.

``When I went to move him, I realized he was too light - that all of him wasn't there anymore. He was pretty torn up. Dead,'' Self said. ``
Then I took off running. But the fog and the snow were so bad, I couldn't see the lights to the runway. Then I heard a sound and saw a blond girl about 13 or 14 years old. I just tried to keep her calm. She kept asking: 'Where are we?' ''

Other major incidents:

On Nov. 1, 1955, a bomb blast tore through 
United Airlines Flight 629, bound for Portland  from Stapleton. The DC-6 aircraft crashed near Longmont,  killing all 44 aboard.

On July 11, 1961, United Airlines Flight 85 veered off a runway on landing and burst into flames. Seventeen of the 122 aboard died. The driver of a vehicle struck by the DC-8 also died.

On Oct. 31, 1969, a hijacker commandeered TWA Flight 85 from Los Angeles to San Francisco and the aircraft landed in Denver where all the passengers and three flight attendants were released. The flight continued onto Rome by way of New York, Bangor and Shannon, Ireland.

On Aug. 7, 1975, windshear caused Continental Airlines Flight 426,
 a Boeing 727 bound for Wichita, to crash after climbing to 100 feet. There were no deaths.

On Nov. 16, 1976, a Texas International DC-9 bound for Houston crashed on takeoff . Of the 81 passengers and 5 crew, 14 were injured. There were no fatalities.

Monday, January 1, 2018



Denver fire stations and general locations.

1 - Downtown
2 - Pena Blvd. corridor
3 - Five Points
4 - Downtown
5 - Glendale
6 - Downtown
7 - North Denver
8 - Capitol Hill
9 - Globeville
10 - Park Hill
11 - Broadway area
12 - Highlands
13 - Southeast
14 - Montclair
15 - Congress Park
16 - South
17 - Northwest
18 - Lowry
19 - Hilltop 

20 - Barnum
21 - Washington Park
22 - Southeast
23 - Federal Blvd.
24 - South
25 - Southwest
26 - Stapleton
27 - Montebello
28 - Southwest
29 - Green Valley Ranch

30 - Southwest
31 - DIA terminal
32 - DIA North

33 - DIA East
34 - DIA Runway 16/34
35 - DIA Pena Blvd.
36 - Sheridan
37 - Englewood
38 - Englewood 

Thursday, November 2, 2017


On Nov. 2, 1961, a two-alarm blaze gutted the interior of the Phipps Auditorium in Denver City Park and smoke from the fire caused damage to the adjacent Museum of Natural History.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


: Denver Public Library 

On July 7, 1971, fire destroyed the Denargo Market, a produce warehouse in Denver.

Firefighters were hampered by the lack of fire hydrants in the area and a loss of water pressure,'' according to Denver Public Library researcher James Rogers.

Firefighters contended with other hazards, including two railroad tank cars filled with carbon dioxide, 50 kegs of black powder in a nearby property and 13,000 volt power lines, according to Rogers.

It was the second major blaze to strike the market, the first occurring Dec. 16, 1952.

Monday, July 31, 2017


Photo: City of Fort Collins

On July 28, 1997, rains
lifted Spring Creek over its bank, sending a flash flood crashing into Fort Collins.

Five people died, 50 others were injured and 200
 homes were lost.

"Chaos. It was a lot of chaos," said Poudre Fire Authority Chief Tom DeMint, quoted on the 20th anniversary of the flood by Fox 31 Denver.

Four of the deaths occurred in a mobile home park on College Avenue, 
according to the Colorado Encyclopedia. The fifth occurred in a residential neighborhood.

Poudre Fire Authority Captain Steve Fleming described the mayhem to the
Coloradoan newspaper:

``We had campers and propane cylinders; there was a trailer on fire, explosions at the laundromat, train derailment, people yelling for help, oil in the water ... and all of it happened within 30 minutes.''

Damage was estimated at $200 million.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Photo: Daily Sentinel

On April 9, 1974, wind-whipped flames swept the Seventh Street industrial area of Grand Junction, Colorado, destroying Mesa Feed and Farm Supply, H&M Electric and the Daily Sentinel printing plant, which was packed with rolls of newsprint.

A lumber yard also burned.

Embers drifted for blocks, setting alight the American Linen Co. on Ninth Street, according to a report in the Daily Sentinel marking the 30th anniversary of the fire.

Retired firefighter Mike Page said "red hot" pieces of tin broke loose as flames engulfed Mesa Feed while smoke reduced visibility.

The wind was so strong it was blowing the smoke horizontal,'' Page recalled in an interview with the Daily Sentinel ``When we arrived at the scene and crossed the railroad tracks, we couldn’t see because of the smoke.''

Three firefighters were injured battling the blaze.

The fire broke out on the same site as a 
Nov. 3, 1898 fire that destroyed the Grand Junction Milling and Elevator Co.

Friday, February 3, 2017


Photo: Greeley Fire Dept.
Island Grove grandstand, Greeley - 1977

Photo: Poudre Valley Fire Authority
Fire in downtown Fort Collins, circa 1970s or 1980s

Photos: Wyoming State Archives
16th Street, Cheyenne, Wyoming, date unknown, left. Cheyenne High School, Aug. 6, 1963, right.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

WEST HOTEL - 1975 & 1982

Fire visited the West Hotel, at 1337 California St. in Denver, in 1975 and 1982. On Dec. 30, 1975, a blaze damaged the fourth floor, top. On April 14, 1982, a fire injured about a dozen people, bottom.

Friday, January 27, 2017


Frank Lunt of Truck 2

On Sept. 20, 1904, nitric acid fumes killed four firemen extinguishing a small fire in the engraving department of The Denver Post.

Lieutenant Charles Dolloff of Engine 4 was the first to succumb to his injuries.

The others were:

John McGlade - known as "Handsome Jack" - of Truck 2

Frank Lunt of Truck 2

Captain Charles Eymann of Truck 1

About a dozen other firemen were injured, including future Fire Chief John Healy.

Nitric acid, HNO3, is a colorless, fuming chemical that is
highly corrosive.

The spill was estimated at about 10 gallons.

Reporting on the effects of nitric acid, the Journal of the American Medical Association provided the following account:

"The Denver Fire Department was called to the office of the Denver Post Sept. 20, 1904, at 4 p. m.

"On arrival they were informed that a carboy of nitric acid had been accidentally broken in an attempt to remove the stopper with a hammer.

"The acid spread across the floor, coming in contact with the zinc used in etching.

"Sawdust was used to absorb it, and, rapidly oxidizing, burst into flame here and there, resulting in the call for the firemen.

"Mr. Bradt, foreman of the department, who was at work in the room, states that the fumes and smoke were not especially irritating until the portable apparatus began playing on the fire."

The article continued:

"Eighteen firemen and two men employed in the office were affected severely enough to demand medical aid.

"Of these, four died, two on the second day, from the direct consequences, and two several weeks later from relapse.

"The immediate symptoms complained of while exposed to the fumes were, in order of frequency, as follows: Dyspnea, pain in the stomach, pain in the chest, headache, dryness of the throat, coughing, vomiting, dizziness, difficulty in walking, and dryness of the nose.

"No unconsciousness was noted.

"Nearly all the firemen returned to their respective firehouses, not considering themselves seriously sick.

"After a few hours many of them sought medical aid, and within twenty-four hours all of them excepting one were patients in the Emergency Hospital."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

MALL FIRE - 1983

Photo: Denver Public Library

On Nov. 23, 1983, fire ravaged the University Hills Shopping Center, the first 5-alarm blaze in Denver Fire Department history.

Flames spread through suspended ceilings and reached more than a dozen stores, many stocked for the holiday shopping season.

Other business sustained smoke damage.

Two of the 150 firefighters at the scene were injured.

Denver Fire Chief Myrle Wise called the blaze "one of the worst" in his 40-year career.

Water from fire engines and aerial ladders turned to ice in near-zero temperatures.

Thirty-five of the city's 41 piece of fire apparatus attended the fire.

According to a Facebook post by Assistant Fire Gregory Taft, police were first on the scene to investigate a burglar alarm and encountered smoke.

The first alarm was transmitted at 12:25 a.m., with Engine 24 - located across from the mall - first due.

Engine 24 and Engine 22 entered the front doors of Yarbro Drug with 3 hose lines while Truck 22's crew climbed to the roof and reported heavy fire venting around air handling equipment and the roof sinking by about a foot, Taft  wrote.  

A special call followed at 12:31 a.m. for an additional engine and truck, with fire dispatchers adding Squad 1 to the assignment.

The 2nd alarm was struck at 12:40 a.m.

The 3rd Alarm at 1:00 a.m.

The 4th Alarm at 1:15 a.m.

Special calls were made between  1:24 a.m. and 2:53 am.

Chief Wise declared the 5th Alarm at 3:15 a.m.

Off-duty firefighters were called back to cover the city.


Photo: Denver Fire Dept.
On Nov. 25-26, 1990, Denver firefighters battled flames at a United Airlines jet fuel depot near Stapleton International Airport for 53 hours.

Dark clouds from the blaze
drifted over the city and health officials warned people with respiratory problems to remain indoors.

About a quarter of the 13 million gallons of jet fuel at the depot went up in flames that reached as high as 500 feet.

"It was a monster," Denver Fire Department spokesman Mike McNeill said.

Temperatures reached 3,500F.

The fire was finally "snuffed out" when Continental Airlines, which owned tanks near the United tanks, hired the private oil well firefighting company Boots & Coots of Texas.

Denver Fire Chief Richard Gonzales said: "The reality is this kind of thing doesn't happen very often and there are very few people who do it on a regular basis."

Boots & Coots president Dwight Williams likened his specialty to "riding bad horses.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

ICE HOUSE - 2007

Photo: Pueblo Fire MuseumIn 2007, fire destroyed the Pueblo Ice House at West Sixth and Elizabeth streets. It was contaminated by asbestos and labeled an environmental risk before the blaze.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

BUTTE - 1895

On Jan. 15, 1895, a series of powder explosions ripped through the warehouse district of Butte, Montana, killing 57 people - including 13 of the city's 15 firefighters.

Box 72 was transmitted just before 10 p.m., an alarm station that would become known as "Fateful Box 72," according to the
City and County of Butte-Silver Bow.

A dispatch to The Denver News said: "There were three separate explosions, the first two breaking nearly every window in a radius of two miles. Men and women were mowed down like grass before a sickle."

Of the two firefighters who survived, 
John Flannery was at the hydrant and Dave Magee, the driver, was shielded by his team.

A fire horse named Jim also survived.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Dramatic photo from Facebook page of Laramie, Wyoming, IAFF Local  946. Date and location of incident unknown.


Fort Carson, Colorado

Laramie, Wyoming
Durango, Colorado 
Fort Collins, Colorado
Missoula, Montana

Cheyenne, Wyoming
Eaton, Colorado
Pueblo, Colorado

Farmington, New Mexico
Fort Collins, Colorado
Pueblo, Colorado


The city of Casper, Wyoming, protected in its early years by volunteers, hired its first paid fireman in 1912 at a salary of $100 per month.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


Photo: Burlington Volunteer Fire Dept.

On Dec. 16, 1945, fire destroyed the Montezuma Hotel in Burlington, Colorado.

The hotel was full for the night, according to the Burlington Volunteer Fire Department website, yet there were no injuries.

A person reported as missing was found at home.

Another major fire struck a few months later at Shank's Cafe on July 13, 1946.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Photo: Grand Junction Fire Dept. Facebook

Grand Junction firemen at the ready, circa 1915

The Grand Junction Fire Department was organized in 1883 with a corps of volunteers, according to the Museums of Western Colorado. In 1889, the Cameron Hose Cart Company established its quarters at City Hall at 5th and Colorado. The first paid firemen were hired in 1902.


Photo: Colorado Springs Fire Dept. 

Members of the Colorado Springs Fire Department dubbed their unique, side-paneled pumper "Coal Chute" for its ladder mount over the hose bed.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


Photo: Denver Fire. Dept.

On Feb. 8, 1969, a three-alarm fire destroyed the Miller Hotel at 1126 17th St., Denver. 

The alarm came in at 3:50 p.m.

According to an article by b
y Assistant Chief Gregory Taft:

Numerous rescues were performed, and a portion of the 4th floor collapsed onto 17th Street. Four residents and one firefighter were hospitalized for injuries. The building was a total loss, and the residents lost everything, including the oldest resident, age 82, who had lived in the hotel for 34 years.

The Denver Fire Department contended with three simultaneous three-alarm fires that day.

The others were at Carney Lumber Co. and  Empire Roofing Co.