Twenty years ago an elite group of firefighters from Prineville went to Colorado to fight just one of many wildfires burning on the western slope of the Rockies. Four hours later, nine of those firefighters were dead.
The blaze had erupted into a firestorm, killing more than a dozen firefighters in all, scarring the small Central Oregon town and leading to changes in how wildfires are fought.
The South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain in Colorado on July 6, 1994, trapped and killed the Prineville nine, along with three smokejumpers and two members of a helicopter firefighting crew. The death toll was the largest in modern wildland firefighting history until a similar blowup killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots on the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona a little more than a year ago.