Firefighter and Utilities Settle Burn Injury case for $5 Million

A firefighter who was severely burned in 2015 while battling a wildland fire in Washington state has reached a $5 million settlement with two utility companies who were blamed for causing the fire.

Daniel Lyon Jr. was the sole survivor of a US Forest Service engine company that was overrun by fire on August 19, 2015 during the Twisp River Fire. Lyon was 25 at the time. The remainder of the crew was Tom Zbyszewki, 20, Andrew Zajac, 26, and Richard Wheeler, 31.

According to a report into the incident, the crew was driving toward a safe zone:

  • As Engine 642 drove down toward the safety zone, the road was completely obscured by smoke.
  • The engine jolted and dropped down as if a tire had popped.”
  • They kept driving downhill, but they had zero visibility, and the engine went off the road.
  • The engine came to a stop, and the surviving firefighter got out and was immediately engulfed in flames.
  • He went through the flames and made his way to the road.

Lyon’s lawsuit blamed Okanogan County Electric Cooperative and Douglas County Public Utility District No. 1 for the fire because they fail to keep branches away from a power line that sparked the fire. The trial court dismissed the suit based upon the Fireman’s Rule, and the matter was of the docket of the state supreme court when the settlement was reached.

Here is a good overview of what occurred at the fire.

More on the settlement.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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