It didn’t take long for Daniel Lyon to win the hearts of officers at the Milton Police Department.
The wounded firefighter and reserve police officer has drawn packed hospital hallways, frequent bedside visits and never-ending messages from strangers and loved ones alike since he was severely burned fighting a wildfire near Twisp last week.
Some police officers consider Lyon a brother, but longtime family friend Officer Don Hobbs says he considers him a son.
“Daniel by far is one of the nicest, most considerate people I know,” said Hobbs, who has known Lyon for about 20 years.
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Lyon joined the U.S. Forest Service just as wildfires intensified statewide.
The 25-year-old Puyallup resident was the lone survivor in a firefighting accident in Okanogan County that killed three others. The men were among more than 1,000 people battling what has become the largest wildfire in state history.
Lyon has mostly third-degree burns on half to two-thirds of his body. He is being treated at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
He faces a months-long recovery.
“He’s a trooper,” Hobbs said. “I’m optimistic that he’s going to make it through this.”
POSITIVE, RESPECTFUL, ADVENTUROUS
Dan Lyon said his son is an adventurous outdoorsman. He bikes, kayaks and does anything that involves a little risk-taking.
The Rogers High School graduate, who attended the University of Washington Tacoma, naturally gravitated toward a career in law enforcement. He became a Milton reserve officer after graduating from the reserve academy in May.
His peers say he’s eager to learn and possesses a positive attitude and respectful demeanor.
Officer Jim Sarff said Lyon didn’t cower when thrown out of his comfort zone.
“He’s not afraid to ask questions,” Sarff said.
Hobbs said the young reserve officer has a spirit of adventure and a desire to “be in the middle of everything” when help is needed.
“He really does have a heart of service,” Hobbs said. “He’s just an all-around good guy.”
After he recovers, Sarff said Lyon won’t be a reserve officer for long. He’s the type who will quickly find work, he said.
“I think he will make a good cop,” Sarff said. “I’m looking forward to getting him back on the road.”
‘GENUINE LOVE TO SERVE’
Dan Lyon said his son struggled to find a paid police job due to a lack of experience, so he took the job with the U.S. Forest Service.
“He loved that as much as police work,” Dan said.
Lyon was about three weeks into his reserve officer job when he was called to duty as a seasonal firefighter.
His father knew the severe wildfire season would inevitably put his son in harm’s way.
“His mother (Barbara) was not happy,” Dan said. “But he’s got a genuine love to serve. We don’t have to like it, but we supported it.”
Lyon called often to check in with his family when he arrived in Okanogan County. He called around noon the day of the accident to tell his parents everything was OK, his father said.
“That’s when all hell broke loose,” Dan Lyon said, fighting back tears.
Officer Hobbs had a bad feeling that night watching news reports of the flames. Every week, Hobbs had been checking in with Lyon’s firefighting coordinator to see how he was doing.
Almost immediately after the call came in from the police chief about Lyon’s injuries, Hobbs and others from the department headed to Harborview.
Since then the department has had a presence in the halls around the clock, supporting their colleague and his family.
Milton officers have been taking shifts there, Hobbs said, often two or three at a time.
The department is among dozens of law enforcement and fire agencies from around the region that have a presence at the hospital.
Milton Police Chief Tony Hernandez and Mayor Debra Perry have been among the visitors.
Perry said she was amazed by Lyon’s apparent enthusiasm, despite his inability to communicate with visitors.
“He literally high-fived the chief and reached out to shake my hand,” she said. “He’s a fighter. I think if anybody can make it, he can.”
LONG ROAD AHEAD
Dan Lyon said his son is making progress. He can’t communicate verbally because he’s on a respirator, but he’s conscious and responsive to doctors and visitors.
Daniel “has a multitude of surgeries ahead of him,” according to a post on a website tracking his progress. His recovery will take three months or more.
His father said the overwhelming support from the community, especially from regional first responders, has blown him away.
“This brotherhood is the strongest I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.
Fundraising websites and events continue to bring in money, strangers have flooded the family with emails and notes of encouragement, and Milton police are collecting patches from law enforcement agencies around the state to present to Lyon once he recovers.
Dan Lyon stressed that his son will be proud of what his community has done for him.
He’s confident his son will fulfill his dream of becoming a full-time police officer.
“He’s going to pull through. He’s a fighter, that’s just his nature.” he said. “He will figure out a way to be successful.”
As for the other firefighters who lost their lives in the same accident, the tearful father said his prayers are with their families.
“There are three families who don’t get to hug their sons tonight,” he said.
TO HELP DANIEL LYON
Those who want to support Daniel Lyon and his family may donate online or attend a fundraiser. Visit gofundme.com/supportofficerlyon to donate online. An in-person fundraiser will take place Friday at the Milton Haggen grocery store from noon-6 p.m. at 2800 Milton Way. There will be hot dogs, root beer floats and a bake sale, and all the proceeds will benefit Lyon and his family.