A firefighter severely injured in a wildfire flare-up that killed three of his comrades in eastern Washington state has left the hospital after three months of treatment.
But Daniel Lyon's recovery is far from complete. The 25-year-old who suffered burns to more than 60 percent of his body on Aug. 19 still hasn't regained use of his hands.
Lyon said at a news conference Wednesday that the hardest part of his recovery has been mental, not physical. He says he thinks every day about his friends who died in the blaze near Twisp: 20-year-old Tom Zbyszewski, 26-year-old Andrew Zajac and 31-year-old Richard Wheeler.
"Those guys are on my mind in a constant basis. It's something you can't get out of your mind. The pain of that is definitely way harder than any physical pain that you can imagine," Lyon said.
The fast-moving fire overtook their vehicle after it crashed down an embankment.
Lyon has spent the past three months at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He had 11 surgeries, including skin grafts and the amputation of his badly burned finger tips. He wears a mask to help limit scarring.
Doctors say the hundreds of letters that came in also made a real difference.
"I think that really buoyed him throughout his stay and gave him a will to recover," Dr. Nicole Gibran, director of Harborview's burn center said.
A lifelong outdoorsman, Lyon is under doctor's orders to return to being as active as possible. "I can't climb mountains right now, but I can climb hills," Lyon said. "And that's exactly what I plan to do."
First, he wants to see his dog and have a good meal. When asked what he would eat, there was no hesitation. "Steak," Lyon said. "definitely."
Lyon said smoke from a toaster oven is enough to trigger memories of the day he was burned. And while working for the U.S. Forest Service was a dream come true, he won't return to a firefighting career. Instead, he hopes to return to the USFS or another agency to work in law enforcement.