Family members of the couple who remarkably escaped from a wildfire in rural Washington State but tragically lost their one-year-old son have described their ordeal as a ‘miracle with a tragic ending’.
Jake and Jamie Hyland and their infant son Uriel were evacuating their property in a remote stretch of Okanogan at around midnight on Sunday when they got trapped by the Cold Springs Fire that began raging hours before.
The couple, who are expecting their second child, were unable to reach family members or the emergency services because power lines were down.
After hours of no contact, Jake’s cousin Jim Mabry decided to head down to the Hyland’s remote property on Tuesday. By this time, the wildfire had turned surrounding pastures of four-foot-high sage into complete ash.
Mabry soon discovered Jake’s truck in a ravine around a quarter of a mile away from their home. The vehicle, which had burst through a barbed wire fence, was severely charred. Its windshield had melted, and the steering wheel and dashboard were completely destroyed.
‘When I first saw the truck, I didn’t want to search,’ Mabry told The Daily Beast. ‘I was so convinced I was coming across remains. Because I didn’t see any chance of them making it.’
Incredibly Jake and Jamie did manage to escape the pick-up truck with Uri. They headed towards the Columbia River where they were miraculously found by rescuers along a bank on Wednesday.
Both Jamie and Jake were alive but gravely injured. Tragically, baby Uri was already dead, bringing the death toll from fires raging up and down the West Coast to seven.
‘It’s a miracle with a sad ending,’ Mabry said. ‘They survived, but lost a child.’
‘They loved their son,’ he added. ‘He was their ray of hope.’
The parents were transported to Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster before being airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Jamie, 26, who is pregnant, suffered burns covering 40 to 50 percent of her body, mostly covering her arms, hands and face. She underwent surgery on her arms this week and is currently in stable, but critical condition, a relative wrote in the GoFundMe page.
‘She has multiple infections (I don’t know where). But she is responding well to antibiotics,’ Dawn Marie, Jamie’s sister, wrote.
‘They believe she will be intubated for the foreseeable future (could be a day or many more they just don’t know yet). They pulled some fluid that concerned them from her lungs. They will be doing a scope of some sort to see how badly her lungs are damaged from the smoke.’
Jake, 31, meanwhile, was burned on 25 percent of his body and was preparing for surgery on his arms as well. He also suffered a collapsed lung and had to be intubated but is now able to breathe on his own, the post said.
Family members say he’s likely to remain in intensive care for the next two weeks, and will undergo anywhere between four and eight more surgeries in that time.
The fundraiser has so far amassed more than $160,000 in donations for the couple, to help pay their medical bills. The page includes a number of photos of the couple and little Uriel smiling on their remote property just weeks ago.
Mabry described the property as deeply isolated, with no cell phone service, electricity or running water, and the closest town is a 45 minute drive away.
The Hyland family, who live outside Portland in Renton, had been visiting their house in Okanogan for the Labor Day weekend.
According to Mabry, the couple had stopped at the property to drop off supplies on their way home from a wedding on Sunday. The Cold Springs Fire began at around 9:45pm that evening and reached the property within just a few hours.
‘People have been making rude comments, about how dumb they are that they didn’t get the evacuation notice,’ Mabry’s wife Tammy revealed to The Daily Beast. ‘It is off grid. I don’t think people understand that.’
Mabry said the couple decided to leave their truck when it hit some rocks and became stuck. They fled on foot in the darkness early Monday morning, carrying only their young son and a jug of water.
Authorities slated a search for Wednesday at 10am. Remarkably, they were discovered hours before by a boat from the Colville Tribe’s fish and wildlife agency thanks to a family member posting about the Hylands on a local fire watch page.
Relatives said they were both shocked and thankful that Jamie and Jake were found alive.
‘When you look at the scene, we were like… we don’t know how they could have survived. The truck is like something you couldn’t believe,’ Tammy said.
‘Being a mom was her dream,’ Tammie said of Jamie. ‘She was made to be a mom.’
Mabry described his own overwhelming feelings when Jake and Jamie were found to Fox13. Though he and his cousin are 15-years apart in age, he said they both share a close bond.
‘We had a common hero,’ Mabry told the network of Cloyd Paxton, their grandfather, who served in the Marines on the Pacific Front during World War II.
Before his death, Mabry said he asked his grandfather what the hardest thing he had to face in life was. Paxton’s reply had nothing to do about the war, instead it was burying his daughter, Mabry said.
Now, Mabry said his younger cousin is facing the same tragic fate.
‘For Jake, if Grandpa can do it you can do it. He didn’t let that loss stop his heart for people, and I hope the same for you. In all the pain and all the hurt that you will overcome, like grandpa,’ he said.
The Cold Springs Fire is just one of a number of blazes currently decimating parts of the Pacific Northwest and California in recent days.
Ninety major fires in 13 states have torched more than 3.4 million acres over the past week - decimating entire towns in Washington, Oregon and California.
In Oregon, a twelve-year-old boy named Wyatt Tofte and his grandmother Peggy Mosso were killed in a wildfire in the Santiam Valley.
The fire also was suspected of causing at least one death outside of Ashland, Oregon, while another three were feared dead in the California Bear Fire that swept through Butte County on Tuesday night.
The cause of the fire in Okanogan has not yet been determined, but County Sheriff Tony Hawley said Uri's death will be labeled a homicide if it turns out to be an arson.
'It would be treated as a homicide, if it were to be determined to be a human-caused, criminal fire,' the sheriff said. 'That's the way we're investigating this at this point, because if we don't collect everything at this point, we can't go back and do that.'
Hawley said Uri's was one of the most tragic wildfire-related deaths he's seen in his 25 years with the sheriff's department.
'The death of a one-year-old doesn't even compare to when we reach our adulthood and we have choices to be places,' he said.
'To even be talking about the death of a one-year-old is just devastating.'