Washington firefighter recovers after fire burns 65% of his body

U.S. and World

TWISP, Wash. (NewsNation Now) — Right now 75 active, large wildfires are burning across the United States, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Some of the largest fires are in California, Colorado, Arizona, Washington and Oregon with more than 2 million acres burning.

Wildland firefighters are among those on the front line, putting their lives in harm’s way to save others and protect property. It’s a risk one man from Washington understands first hand.

In August 2015, rookie Daniel Lyon was responding to a fire on a hot dry day in north-central Washington. In less than four hours, the Twisp River Fire grew from 2 to 264 acres, at one point doubling in size in just 15 minutes.

It was Lyon’s first season as a firefighter as part of Engine 642. Two and a half hours into fighting the blaze, the winds shifted and the team from Engine 642 found themselves surrounded by flames.

In an effort to escape, their engine careened off a road and down a hill. Lyon managed to get out of the truck and ran through the flames to get out.

His fellow firefighters Rick Wheeler, Tom Zbyskewski and Andrew Zajac did not survive.

Lyon’s suffered burns to 65% of his body. He had third-degree burns on his legs, arms, hands and face. Nine of his fingers were amputated and he had damage to his lungs and airway.

Lyon’s spent three months in the ICU and the next several years in and out of the hospital undergoing multiple skin grafts and more than 100 surgeries.

But Lyons was determined to not just survive but thrive.

Four years after the Twisp River Fire, Lyon summited Mount Rainier in Washington. It was a 14,000-foot climb to the top, a moment Lyon calls the toughest and most gratifying of his life.

Lyon is now on a mission to honor the friends he lost. Each year, he visits the memorial site in Twisp to raise awareness about the dangers wildland firefighters face.

Lyons is no longer a firefighter but is now in law enforcement in Washington. If you’d like to support wildland firefighters check out the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. The non-profit group offers support to families of firefighters who have died in the line of duty.

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