An Okanogan County firefighter who suffered severe burns in a wildfire early last month has died at Harborview Medical Center, fire officials said in a statement.
Christian Johnson, 55, was surrounded by his wife, Pam, and family and friends when he died on Wednesday, according to a statement from Okanogan County Emergency Management. He was the assistant fire chief with the Okanogan County Fire District #3, where he had worked for 20 years.
“He was well known in the area,” said Maurice Goodall, director of Okanogan County Emergency Management. “The fire department is mourning his loss, along with his family and our community … What do you say when you lose someone like that? You just gotta go on and do the best you can.”
Johnson, a military veteran who served as a gunner in the Iraq War, suffered the burns on Sept. 1 while fighting the Spring Coulee fire, which began burning south of Okanogan in a community of fewer than 3,000 people. It took firefighters about 90 minutes to contain the 142-acre blaze.
Johnson was near the north end of the fire at the time, Goodall said. While the details are still unclear, he said Johnson had just gotten out of a fire brush truck to help other firefighters extinguish the blaze.
He suffered burns to 60% of his body, as well as inhalation burns. He was airlifted to Harborview.
The Department of Natural Resources is still looking into the cause of the fire, Goodall said.
We lost a brave man yesterday. Christian Johnson was not only a husband and a veteran, but he selflessly and bravely served as a firefighter on the front lines of the Spring Coulee Fire that eventually took his life.
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) October 3, 2019
Johnson’s family and fellow firefighters don’t want to speak to the media at this time, Goodall said, but his family is requesting, in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters Burn Foundation, Wildland Firefighter Foundation or the Red Cross.
The details of Johnson’s celebration of life are still being finalized, Goodall said.