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Storm King plus 20: Remembering a lost son

Published On: Jul 02 2014 08:40:08 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Alicia Inns talks with the parents of Jon Kelso, one of nine Prineville Hotshots and 14 firefighters who were killed on Colorado's Storm King Mountain 20 years ago.

PRINEVILLE, Ore. -

Marv and Anita Kelso cherish a specific photo album. It holds the last few pictures taken of their son, Jon.

"He loved the outdoors. I think that was part of the firefighting thing, he loved the outdoors," Marv Kelso said Wednesday.

Jon worked on the fire lines for 10 summers.

In the summer of '94, he was one of 20 Prineville Hotshots called to help battle the South Canyon Fire near Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

"The heat just exploded -- it was so dry and when it exploded, hundreds of thousands of acres just went up at the same time. They didn't have much of a chance," Marv said.

On July 6th, 1994, 14 brave firefighters perished atop Storm King Mountain.

"Well, I saw the 11:00 news that night, but it just said a Hotshot crew," Marv said.

"And Marv went to get a load of wood that next morning -- and heard it on the radio," Anita said.

Their beloved son was one of nine Prineville Hotshots and 14 firefighters who died battling the fire.

"It was like, 'How can this happen? How can this happen?" Anita said.

"You're never prepared to lose a child," Marv said, "because when you lose a child, you lose your future."

Now, even after 20 years -- and hearing the grim news of more wildfire deaths like the Yarnell fire in Arizona -- the Kelsos say sometimes, Mother Nature can't be beat.

"I think they've made a tremendous amount of effort, but accidents are still going to happen," Marv said.
     
A few years after the Storm King Fire, the Kelsos helped plan and build a walk-through memorial that sits in Prineville's Ochoco Creek Park, to keep the memories of Jon and his eight comrades alive.

"I think he'd be proud of us, the way we are proud of him -- the way we've handled the last 20 years," Marv said.

And now, 21 current Prineville Hotshots are going to Glenwood Springs to take part in special ceremonies and a processional for the anniversary on Sunday.

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