When Jacob Hyland, his wife, Jamie, and their young baby went to their family property in rural Washington two years ago, they had no idea that the Cold Springs Fire was raging nearby. With no WiFi or cell service on the 40-acre ranch, they didn’t receive warnings to evacuate from the blaze, which ultimately consumed some 200,000 acres.
By the time Jacob, now 33, spotted the expansive orange hue across the sky at one in the morning, there was nowhere to run. The family huddled together against a rock face until the inferno, fueled by 50 mile-an-hour winds, came over them. Extensively burned and suffering smoke inhalation, they somehow found the strength to trek to the Columbia River, which runs along their property, hoping for rescue. Tragically, their infant son, Uriel, did not survive, but two days later, as the couple lay on the bank drifting in and out of consciousness, a boat from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spotted them and transported them to an ambulance that whisked them to the burn unit at the University of Washington’s Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Jacob, who agreed to be interviewed for this article, suffered third degree burns on more than 30 percent of his body, and his hands were charred almost beyond recognition. People with this level of damage require care by a broad team of healthcare workers not to succumb to their injuries, says his surgeon and critical care physician, Sam Arbabi.