C. Oregon remembers its own fallen firefighters

Storm King Mtn. 19-year anniversary this Saturday

POSTED: 7:54 PM PDT July 1, 2013 

The firefighting tragedy in Arizona rekindles many painful memories for people here in Central Oregon.

A memorial in Prineville was erected in honor of the 14 firefighters that died 19 years ago this Saturday in Colorado, as well as wildland firefighters from the past, present and future.

"He enjoyed smoke jumping. He jumped some 100 -- I can't remember exactly how many times on fire, all over the United States," Virginia Petty, the mother of a former Redmond smokejumper, said Monday.

Virgina and Joseph Petty of Prineville visit the Wildland Firefighters Monument almost every day. It's a monumental reminder of their late son, Karl Petty, a Redmond smokejumper, and his love for fighting fires.

"He was going to college in Nevada, and then he would smoke jump in the summers, and then he would  go back to college for a term or two," said Virginia. "It took a long time for him to get to college, but he did."

Karl died in his late 50s of pancreatic cancer. But during his life, he became close friends with fellow firefighters, including some of those lost almost 19 years ago in Colorado.

"He knew quite a few of these firefighters who lost their lives," said Virginia. "Now we come to look at the headstones that they have put here, and their pictures, and their little stories about them."

On July 6, 1994, a 50-acre fire erupted into a 2,000-acre firestorm and raced up a hillside of Storm King Mountain, west of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Some firefighters tried to outrun the fire, but didn't make it.

Nine of the members of them Prineville Hotshots and the others, smokejumpers from Missoula, Montana.

Now the life stories of all of them live on, through 14 stones along a path in Prineville's Ochoco Creek Park.

Virginia hopes the recently fallen firefighters in Arizona can live on in some similar way as well.

"My heart is with them, and all I can say is, just remember the life they loved," said Virginia.