Pierce County sends team to help fight Okanogan County fires

Daniel Lyon
Daniel Lyon Courtesy photo

Six Pierce County first responders were dispatched to Okanogan County on Thursday to help coordinate efforts to battle deadly wildfires raging in Eastern Washington.

Three firefighters were killed Wednesday and more were hurt in one of the blazes raging in Okanogan County, near Twisp.

One of the injured firefighters is a 25-year-old Puyallup resident who suffered burns over 60 percent of his body, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle reported. He remained in critical condition in the intensive care unit of Harborview.

The U.S. Forest Service identified him as Daniel Lyon, a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service who is based out of Leavenworth. The three firefighters killed were based and lived in the Methow Valley.

He was “holding his own,” said Koreena Haynes, a Forest Service employee acting as liaison for the firefighter’s family. She said he was surrounded by friends and extended family.

A woman who appeared to be Lyon’s sister, Cassandra Lyon, posted on Facebook Thursday: “Please send prayers for my lil brother. He is in critical condition at Harborview after being airlifted from the wildfires in Eastern Washington. I am so proud of the work he has done with the Forest Service, and with third-degree burns on 60 percent of his body, he has a long road ahead. But with everyone’s support I know he will pull through.”

The firefighters who died “were engaged in initial attack operations and were involved in a vehicle accident when it is believed that the fire overtook the vehicle,” according to a statement from Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, which cited information from Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers.

Lyon was nearby when he was burned.

The “incident management team” sent from Pierce County will help staff the Okanogan County emergency operations center and provide assistance in planning, coordination and oversight, said Sheri Badger, spokeswoman for Pierce County Emergency Management.

The team is made up of one member each from Orting Valley Fire & Rescue, West Pierce Fire & Rescue, Port of Tacoma security department, the city of Buckley, Tacoma Fire Department and the Lakewood Police Department, Badger said.

The team is expected to be gone for a week, she said.

The same group went to the region last year to help battle wildfires, but they’ve been told to expect worse conditions now, Badger said.

They will join 18 other South Sound region firefighters who were sent to Eastern Washington late last month or earlier this month, said Peninsula Fire Chief Guy Allen, who serves as Pierce County Fire Resources coordinator.

Those firefighters are from the Key Peninsula, Gig Harbor, Browns Point-Dash Point, Orting Valley and East Pierce departments, Allen said.

A pair of them are working in the northeastern part of the state, with the rest in Chelan or Okanogan counties, he said.

“From what I hear, the people recently shifted from Chelan to Okanogan are on their 30th straight hour,” Allen said. “Everyone’s accounted for and good.”

The deployed firefighters are communicating directly with their families or through Facebook, the chief said.

“I think that helps reassure the home front,” he said.

Allen said he planned to try to recruit more South Sound-area firefighters with wildland fire training to go east, but he wasn’t optimistic.

“There’s really no one else to send,” Allen said.

Western Washington is in the midst of its own drought and the fire danger is high here, too, he said, so departments are reluctant to deplete their own forces.

The Seattle Times contributed to this report.