When he couldn’t reach his cousin Jake Hyland on Monday, Jim Mabry drove to his family’s remote property in rural Washington state, where wildfires turned pastures of 4-foot-high sage into dust.
Jake and his wife, Jamie, along with their 1-year-old son, Uriel, were visiting their land in Okanogan County when flames from the Cold Springs Fire ripped through the area. Relatives couldn’t reach the couple, or emergency services, because power lines were down.
On Tuesday, Mabry discovered Jake’s truck stuck in a ravine, about a quarter of a mile from the land. The vehicle had blown through a barbed wire fence. Its windshield had melted, and the steering wheel and dashboard were obliterated, he recalled.
“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.”
Yet the Hylands made a harrowing escape, relatives said, abandoning their small pickup truck and heading to the Columbia River, where rescuers miraculously found them Wednesday morning.
Their little boy did not survive.
Grandmother, 12-Year-Old Grandson, Four More Die as Wildfire Smoke Enshrouds Oregon and California in Darkness
Now Jake, 31, and Jamie, 26, are hospitalized in critical condition, their bodies covered in burns. Jamie, who is pregnant, has burns on 50 percent of her body, mostly on her arms, hands and face, Mabry told The Daily Beast.
“It’s a miracle with a sad ending,” he said. “They survived, but lost a child.”
He added, “They loved their son. He was their ray of hope.”
A GoFundMe page—which shows a photo of the couple and their baby smiling on their remote property just a few months ago—has raised more than $117,000 for the family. Jake, his family said, is expected to have at least four more surgeries and will be in the intensive care unit for at least two weeks.
The Cold Springs wildfire is just one of a slew of blazes to decimate swaths of the Pacific Northwest and California in recent days, with fires killing at least a dozen people in that state alone, according to the LA Times. In Lyons, Oregon, 12-year-old Wyatt Tofte died beside his dog. His grandmother, Peggy Mosso, was also killed in a blaze.
Officials said the death toll was expected to rise in California, Oregon, and Washington, where thousands of residents have faced evacuation orders. In California, the ferocious August Complex fire—which had burned more than 471,000 acres and was only 24 percent contained as of Thursday afternoon—was the largest blaze in state history.
Also on Thursday, the National Interagency Fire Center reported 102 fires had burned through 4.3 million acres throughout the country, mostly in the West. The Cold Springs fire, which burned 172,000 acres, was 10 percent contained.
Mabry said Jake’s property was deeply isolated—no cell service, electricity, or running water. The closest town is a 45-minute drive. Jake and Jamie stopped at the property to drop some supplies at their Quonset hut on their way home from a wedding in Spokane, Mabry explained, noting that the blaze started around 9:45 p.m. local time Sunday, and reached the property hours later.
“People have been making rude comments, about how dumb they are that they didn’t get the evacuation notice,” Mabry’s wife, Tammie, told The Daily Beast. “It is off grid. I don’t think people understand that.”
Mabry said the Hylands ditched the truck, which hit some rocks, and fled in the darkness early Monday morning, carrying their son and a jug of water.
Authorities scheduled a search for Wednesday at 10 a.m., but Mabry said the couple was found earlier thanks to a family member’s Facebook post on a local fire watch page. A boat from the Colville Tribe’s fish and wildlife agency discovered the couple.
According to local news channel KREM, detectives with the sheriff’s office and tribal police are investigating the child’s death as a homicide since the fire could have been “human-caused.”
Two hundred miles away, the wildfires came for virtually an entire town.