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Town honors victims in deadly Firestone house explosion

Baseball fields dedicated and renamed for victims
Posted at 4:36 PM, Mar 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-24 20:14:55-04

FIRESTONE, Colo. – The month of April will mark one full year since brothers-in-law Joey Irwin and Mark Martinez were killed in the deadly 2017 Firestone house explosion.

Neighbors in the town came together to honor the two men on Saturday.

“From the bottom of our hearts, from both my husband's and brother's families,” Erin Martinez said, “we want to thank everyone who had a role in making this happen.”

Erin is the widow of Mark Martinez and she’s the sister of Joey Martinez. In the April 2017 explosion, she also suffered serious burns to her body. A juvenile was also injured in the blast.

On Saturday, she addressed the crowd of family, friends and neighbors as local baseball fields were dedicated to Mark and Joey.

Field 1 and Field 2 at the Firestone Regional Sports Complex were renamed Martinez Field and Irwin Field.

“This memorial encompasses both of their spirits,” she said.

Family members said the two men were very familiar with the complex and that Saturday’s dedication brought a bit of happiness to the tragic situation.

“Every time we come here, we’ll be proud to see their names up there,” Ruben Martinez said about his cousin Joey, and his lifelong friend Mark.

Joey’s sister-in-law, Lisa Irwin told Denver7, “What better way than to do it in the town that they loved and they spent their lives in?”

Lives that everyone agrees were taken too soon.

“This doesn't need to happen to anybody else,” Irwin said.

It’s what happened that has raised some serious questions about the safety of oil and gas sites across Colorado.

“There needs to be more regulations, or you know, closer attention paid to what people are doing because it cost people their lives," said Irwin.

There have been some changes since the explosion. In February, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGC) approved new regulations for installing, testing, and shutting down flow lines, carrying oil and gas from wells to nearby equipment.

“If there’s one good thing, maybe that’ll help,” Mark’s cousin, Leo Martinez told Denver7.

It’s difficult to forget the images and videos shared by neighbors of the home engulfed in flames.

A month after the massive explosion, investigators revealed that non-odorized methane gas filtered into the home through a French Drain and Sump Pit due to a cut, abandoned gas flow line from a nearby abandoned well.

The line hadn't been disconnected from the wellhead and the wellhead hadn't been capped, although flow to the well was off through 2016.

Flow resumed in January 2017.

The line now in question is a 1-inch line that ran about six feet from the home's foundation.

For now, the family said they’re focusing on the fields and on healing.

“This dedication today brings something positive out of an ugly tragedy," Erwin Irwin said.