Report Blames Poor Judgment for Colorado Firefighter Deaths

<i> from Associated Press</i>

A federal report blames poor judgment by fire crews and their bosses for the deaths of 14 firefighters on Colorado’s Storm King Mountain last month, it was reported Saturday.

The Oregonian, citing an anonymous U.S. Forest Service administrator, said the report concluded that the firefighters “failed to exercise sufficient caution” by placing themselves in a deadly situation.

The report also found fault in judgments made by the firefighters’ supervisors, the newspaper said.

NBC News reported that investigators had placed the blame on “overzealous” firefighters.


The fire, which was started by lightning on July 2, exploded four days later, racing uphill and fatally trapping 12 firefighters on a down-slope fire line. Two other firefighters were found dead on top of a ridge.

Thirty-four firefighters survived the inferno, bailing into a canyon on the other side of the ridge or deploying their fire shelters on a ridge that remained untouched.

Some families of the deceased firefighters were angered by the news reports.

“I just don’t know what this is about,” said Patty Tyler, the wife of Richard Tyler, a firefighter from Grand Junction, Colo. “It’s just really hard for me to believe that is the gist of the report. It’s too simple, to me. I don’t know how you take a whole incident like that and wrap it up like this.”


Sonny Soto of Missoula, Mont., a smoke jumper who survived the fire, said the report’s conclusion “sounds pretty stupid to me, blaming 14 people who died for doing their job. If anything, they were just following orders.”