Two Firefighters Killed Battling Colorado Wildfire

Posted: 04-16-2008
Updated: 04-16-2008 02:51:13 PM

Courtesy of The Pueblo Chieftain

The two Olney Springs firefighters who were killed Tuesday afternoon fighting the wildfire that swept through the small town of Ordway were good friends and fellow correctional officers at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility.

Terry DeVore, 31, chief of the Olney Springs Volunteer Fire Department, was driving a firetruck with John Schwartz, 38, when the truck apparently plunged through a burned-out bridge hidden by heavy smoke. DeVore had encouraged Schwartz to join the fire department in December.

"They were good friends and John loved the lifestyle out here," Schwartz's father, also John Schwartz, said Wednesday morning. "John liked the idea of helping out the community and working with Terry and his other buddies."

DeVore and Schwartz were both fathers of four children. According to news reports, DeVore's father, Bruce DeVore, was riding in a second firetruck behind his son's vehicle when the crash occurred.

DeVore was a sergeant at the Arkansas Valley prison while Schwartz was a correctional officer. Ari Zavaras, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, expressed official condolences Wednesday morning.

"Not only did these two fine men serve the public by upholding safety and security in their daily jobs, but they further served their communities by volunteering, " Zavaras said in a statement. "That they paid the ultimate price is a tragedy."

DeVore's mother, Deb DeVore, told a Denver newspaper Wednesday the Olney Springs department rolled out to answer the wildfire danger about 3:45 p.m. Along with the heavy smoke from the burning grass and trees, the strong winds were blowing dirt as well.

"From what I understand, the smoke was so bad on the highway they couldn't see," Mrs. DeVore said.

DeVore is survived by his parents and his widow, Jennifer, and four young children.

Schwartz is survived by his parents as well, John and Toni Schwartz of Fowler, as well as four sons.

Schwartz grew up in the Pueblo area and attended Centennial High School before joining the Air Force. After four years in service, he moved to the Olney Springs area to ranch and also worked at the Arkansas Valley prison.

"John just loved the lifestyle out here and raising his boys," his father said.

El Paso County officials identified the pilot killed Tuesday when his single-engine air tanker crashed at Fort Carson while fighting a 9,000-acres wildfire on the Mountain Post.

Gert Marais, 42, of Fort Benton, Mont., was killed about 6 p.m. when his plane crashed near Colorado 115. Marais worked for Aero Seat, of Sterling.