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Okanogan County Firefighter Dies From Injuries Sustained During Labor Day Weekend Fire

Christian Johnson, 55, suffered burns over 60 percent of his body. The veteran firefighter was helping fight a small brush Sept. 1 fire near Okanogan. He died Wednesday, Oct. 3. Courtesy Amy Freel/GoFundMe


A Washington firefighter who was badly burned while fighting a fire over Labor Day weekend has died from his injuries. Christian Johnson, 55, had been flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after suffering burns over more than half of his body.

Johnson died Wednesday, Oct. 2, at the medical center, surrounded by family and friends, according to Okanogan County Emergency Management.

“The family is grateful for the loving care Christian received from Harborview Medical Center staff, and the unwavering support they received from the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters Burn Foundation,” Okanogan County Emergency Management wrote in a Facebook post, which had received 425 recactions and 94 comments shortly after it was posted.

Johnson was an assistant fire chief with Okanogan County Fire District 3, where he’d volunteered for 20 years. His death will be a loss to the community, said Maurice Goodall, director of Okanogan County Emergency Management.

Firefighters responded quickly to the Spring Coulee Fire on Sunday, Sept. 1, in Okanogan County, where Christian Johnson was severely injured. He died Wednesday, Oct. 3 in a Seattle hospital. Courtesy of Okanogan County Emergency Managment aerial video

“Christian, he was a well-known person in Okanogan County. He has been here for quite some time. I know him personally. He’s a good man, has a good family. I send my prayers to the family,” Goodall said.

In a statement, Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hillary Franz, who oversees the Department of Natural Resources, called Johnson a hero.

“I cannot imagine how difficult and heart wrenching this time has been for his family. Even though Christian was not a DNR firefighter, we consider him one of our own, and his family, friends, and colleagues are in our prayers,” Franz said.

The DNR is still investigating what caused the Spring Coulee Fire, which burned 142 acres on Sept. 1 south of Okanogan in north-central Washington. Firefighters contained the small brush fire in about 90 minutes.

Along with the DNR, Okanogan County is looking into what happened at the fire. What they know now is that Johnson was with another firefighter outside of his brush truck when he was overcome by flames, Goodall said.

Johnson was placed in a medically induced coma and underwent multiple skin grafts at Harborview Medical Center and faced a long road to recovery, doctors said in September. He had suffered second- and third-degree burns over more than 60 percent of his body. His lungs were also burned.

In summer 2018, volunteer Okanogan County firefighter Brett Read was injured while helping to put out the large Grass Valley Fire near Grand Coulee. In 2015, firefighters Rick Wheeler, Andrew Zajac and Tom Zbyszewski were killed and Daniel Lyon was badly injured near Twisp in Okanogan County.

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Courtney Flatt