Puyallup firefighter who survived deadly wildfire doing ‘really well’

The 25-year-old Puyallup firefighter who survived a deadly August blaze in Okanogan County is recovering and focusing more on “rehabilitation and getting his strength back,” his doctor says.

A determined Daniel Lyon is walking and using the hospital’s gym, Dr. Samuel Mandell, a University of Washington assistant professor of surgery who treats burn patients, said during a news conference Tuesday at Harborview Medical Center.

“He’s had his ups and downs, but he’s doing really well,” Mandell said, describing Lyon as having “great spirit” and benefiting from being young and fit before he was injured.

Lyon, who suffered burns on more than 60 percent of his body, was listed in serious condition Tuesday at the hospital renowned for its burn care.

He has undergone 10 surgeries and skin grafts while at Harborview, and he has fought some infections and responded well to pain management, Mandell said.

He said Lyon still has one smaller surgery and “some weeks of recovery left.”

Lyon was burned Aug. 19 when he and three other firefighters were driving up a steep gravel road near Twisp and crashed down a 40-foot embankment, where they were overtaken by fire, a coroner’s report said.

Killed in the incident were Richard Wheeler, 31; Andrew Zajac, 26; and Tom Zbyszewski, 20, who died of smoke inhalation and burns.

Mandell was joined at the news conference by Lyon’s parents, Daniel and Barbara Lyon of Puyallup, to provide an update on the progress of the first-year firefighter and reserve police officer.

Lyon’s father said his son was “devastated” when he learned of the deaths of his fellow firefighters.

He prays for them and their families, the father said.

He noted his son has had some down times but is generally an upbeat person and even has been able to laugh.

“Without a doubt, when he has a good day, we have a great day — and he’s having more of those lately,” he said.

“We help each other get through it,” he added.

His son wants to get back to normal, although it will be a “new normal,” the father said.

At the moment, Barbara Lyon said, he speaks with a hoarse voice.

An outpouring of support from the community and the hospital staff have been crucial to getting through the trauma, his father said.

Hundreds of patches from law-enforcement and firefighting agencies throughout the country have been sent to the hospital and continue to regularly arrive as part of an effort to make wall quilts and bed runners for all the victims’ families, his mother said.

“It shows the support with all this, the brotherhood that they have here and how they’re really supporting Daniel,” she said. “And it just gets me, it really does.”

Letters from the community, including notes and drawings from elementary schoolchildren, have boosted his spirits, his mother said.

When he is released from the hospital, he wants to see his dog and has a “hankering” for a steak, his parents said.

Mandell, the surgeon, said his patient still has a long recovery period ahead but is poised to make “significant gains” given how hard he works.

“He’s going to make a full recovery,” his father said.