Firefighter injured in deadly Washington state blaze leaves hospital

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 18, 2015 8:08 PM

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A firefighter gravely injured battling a massive summer wildfire in Washington state that claimed the lives of three members of his crew, was released from a Seattle hospital on Wednesday after months of rehabilitation and surgeries.

Daniel Lyon, 25, suffered burns over more than 60 percent of his body when a rush of flames overtook his crew on Aug. 19 as they fought a blaze bearing down on the town of Twisp in the foothills of the Cascade mountains of north-central Washington.

The so-named Twisp River Fire was part of a broader cluster of fires that burned larger than any in state history, charring more than 250,000 acres (101,171 hectares) during one of the worst fire seasons on record in Washington.

"August 19, that was definitely the scariest day of my life, but I got to share that day with some really great firefighters," Lyon told reporters, wearing a baseball cap and a custom-made protective mask over his face. "Those guys were truly brothers to me."

The three U.S. Forest Service firefighters, who perished when fast-moving flames overtook their position after they were involved in a vehicle accident, were Tom Zbyszewski, 20, Andrew Zajac, 26, and Richard Wheeler, 31.

Four other firefighters were injured, including Lyon, who was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle in critical condition, the hospital said.

Lyon underwent 11 burn surgeries and spent two months in intensive care before being transferred out of intensive care on Oct. 20, it said.

Harborview doctor Nicole Gibran told reporters Lyon has a "hard road ahead of him" with surgeries and rehabilitation and would suffer itching on his body.

"I can't wait to get back outside," Lyon said. "It felt great walking outside today, feeling the fresh air."

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Diane Craft)