Wednesday, April 16, 2008

CO: More details: 3 firefighters dead

More details are emerging about the three fatalities on wildland fires in Colorado.

Crowley County Coroner Karen Tomky confirmed that the two fatalities on the fire near Ordway, CO were volunteer firefighters Terry Devore, 30, and John Schwartz, 38. Tomky said the two firefighters were in a fire truck "attempting to cross a bridge that had collapsed". A map of the Ordway area is in our previous post.

The third firefighter was killed in the Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) that crashed near Fort Carson along Colorado 115. The pilot was the only person on board. The SEAT, owned by Aero Applicators, was based out of Sterling, CO and was contracted by the state. The county sheriff was quoted as saying:
"He dumped his slurry and they say after that it looked like it pulled up and then it just nosedived into the ground,"
Our thoughts and condolences are with the families and co-workers of these firefighters.

Here is a map of the general area of the fire near Fort Carson, the fire on which the SEAT crashed. The location was determined from the spot weather forecast. They are calling it the TA25 fire.

View Larger Map

More information about the fires from the Rocky Mountain News:

The devastating grass fire in and around Ordway in southeastern Colorado has burned 8,900 acres, or some 14 square miles, but the blaze now is 60 percent contained, a spokesman for Crowley County Fire said this morning.

Firefighters from 35 agencies continue to battle the fire that erupted Tuesday and that has been linked to three deaths.

Winds blowing at 20 mph and gusting much higher than that could be a great help if they blow back on the grassy areas already burned, creating their own natural firebreak, said Crowley County Fire spokesman Chris Sorensen.

However, the winds are swirling right now, and it’s not clear which direction they’re going to settle on. If they continue to blow out of the north and northeast, as they did Tuesday, they could spread the fire even farther.

Firefighters also are hoping that the 40 percent chance of thunderstorms this afternoon will come to fruition and that the rains will help douse the fire.

“We will certainly take any cooperation the weather will provide,” Sorensen said. The National Weather Service says Ordway has a slight chance of showers between noon and 2 p.m. today then an chance of showers and thunderstorms after 3 p.m. The high temperature should be about 61, some 20 degrees warmer than Tuesday’s high.

Rain is likely again overnight, then snow likely after 4 a.m. Thursday, with a total chance of precipitation at 70 percent.

The fire has burned mostly short-grass prairie, plus some crop lands both east and west of Ordway.

Within the city limits of Ordway, four structures have burned, but fire officials don’t know the extent of their damage, and say the city itself is not a major worry.

The evacuation order for all 1,100 Ordway residents remains in effect, “for their safety and for the safety of the firefighting effort,” Sorenson said.


The fire at Fort Carson had forced some evacuations late Tuesday and a shelter was set up at a special events center on base, Capt. Gregory Dorman said. The fire had burned about 9,000 acres by late Tuesday and was about 50 percent contained, officials said.

On Tuesday, much of the state was under a National Weather Service red flag warning, signifying high fire danger. Gov. Bill Ritter declared a state of emergency, freeing up state resources to help fight the fire. The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday night Humidity was low in Ordway on Tuesday and temperatures were in the 80s.

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