Visits scene of fatal fire to pay respects
By Marcy Stamper
Daniel Lyon, the firefighter who was severely burned in the Twisp River Fire, arrived back home in Montana after three months of intensive treatment at a burn unit, plus a stop in the Methow Valley for an informal gathering with firefighters and other supporters.
Lyon was self-assured as he spoke to the media in conjunction with his discharge from Harborview Medical Center on Wednesday (Nov. 18). He was looking forward to being active and outdoors, and to being reunited with his dog, Ozark, whose stay in a kennel was paid for by contributions from Methow Valley residents.
While Lyon was upbeat, he acknowledged that he constantly feels stiff and that his skin feels tight. Regaining movement in his hands remains one of his biggest struggles, he said. But his pain level is low, he said.
“I think he’s made a remarkable recovery, and in part that really is due to his parents — the commitment to be at his bedside — and all the people who supported him from the community,” Nicole Gibran, one of his physicians, said at the press conference.
Lyon still has a difficult road ahead, with itching, scarring and intensive physical therapy. He wears a specially designed face mask and clothing that put pressure on his skin to limit scarring, said Gibran.
Lyon said it would be a full-time job — with overtime — of constant movement to prevent scar tissue from forming. Ultimately he expects to be able to resume favorite activities like hunting, fishing, skiing and hiking.
Scary and rewarding memories
Lyon called the day of the fire “the scariest day of my life.” He paid tribute to all the firefighters and emergency responders he worked with and who helped him, but he had special words for his three crewmates, who perished in the fire.
“Those guys are the reason I’m here today — for Andrew, Tom and Rick, and their families. I don’t want their legacies to stop here. Those guys were truly brothers to me, and we shared a lot of great moments together,” said Lyon.
The mental part of his recovery has been tougher than anything else, said Lyon. The other firefighters are on his mind constantly. “The pain of that is definitely way harder than any physical pain you can imagine,” he said.
“Being part of the Forest Service was a dream come true,” said Lyon, who said he took the job so he could work outside. Once he has recovered, he hopes to resume his career in law enforcement, he said.
Lyon’s parents, Dan and Barbara, thanked everyone at the hospital, in the community, and around the world, for their support. “He’s taught us that, with hard work, anything is possible — and that’s true for everyone,” said his father.
Visit to Methow Valley
Firefighters from Okanogan County Fire District 6, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service and first responders from Aero Methow Rescue Service joined Lyon and his family at a small gathering at the Methow Valley Ranger Station on Saturday (Nov. 21).
Lyon also visited the site of the fire and the accident. “It was very humbling for him to be able to be there, and very healing,” said Koreena Haynes, the family liaison between Lyon and his family and the U.S. Forest Service. “He wanted to pay respects to his crewmembers. It was pretty powerful.”
On Sunday, there was a reception at the North Cascades Smokejumper Base as a send-off before the family’s flight back home to Montana.
Lyon also got to tour — and ride in — a Northwest MedStar helicopter that came up from Brewster for the occasion.
Many people and businesses donated so Lyon and his family could visit the Methow on the way home. Spring Creek Ranch contributed lodging in Winthrop; King Charters, from Boise, donated the flight; and Mazama resident Linda Dulac and other community members covered the care for Lyon’s dog.
Lyon will continue daily physical and occupational therapy in Montana, along with telemedicine conferences and a monthly visit to Harborview, said Haynes.
Gibran emphasized the need for continued support for Lyon over the course of his recovery, but also urged people to give him space to reintegrate into the community on his own.
It was Lyon’s idea to visit the Methow on his way home, said Haynes. “It was really nice closure for everyone. It let a lot of people feel peace throughout the situation. People are grieving, but are also celebrating Daniel’s recovery and the path ahead — not just for Daniel, but for everyone else,” she said.