DNR investigation into Twisp fire concludes, possible cause foun - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

DNR investigation into Twisp fire concludes, possible cause found

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OKANOGAN COUNTY, WA- The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has wrapped up an investigation into the cause of the Twisp fire that killed three firefighters last summer.

The report says the wildfire likely started as light winds moved through branches and a sagging Okanogan County electrical distribution line.

Burning foliage dropped to the ground, and then spread the flames. A utility official told investigators power lines are maintained to standards and trees are usually removed every three years.


NBC RIGHT NOW -- Months after it happened, we now know how three firefighters lost their lives battling one the largest fire in state history this summer. 

Friday, the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service released a joint review of the deadly Twisp River Fire.

It was a horrible event, when three young firefighters lost their lives in the Twisp River Fire. A newly released 25-page report explained how this could have happened.

On August 19th, 20-year-old Thomas Zbyszewski, 26-year-old Andrew Zajac, 31-year-old Richard Wheeler and 25-year-old Daniel Lyon were in Engine 642 in the Woods Canyon area. This is an arial photo of the region provided by the report. 

The report details how the intense flames suddenly overcame the firefighters engine. One veteran firefighter said he had never seen flames move like that before. The group of four firefighters tried to drive to safety through 60-foot-tall flames.

As the engine drove downhill to the safety zone, there was no visibility and the truck drove off the road into the flames. Lyon jumped out of the truck and ran through the fire to the road, where he eventually escaped after suffering severe burns all over his body.

The other three firefighters remained in the engine and died. Lyon spoke to the media Wednesday when he was finally released from the hospital. 

"August 19th was definitely the scariest day of my life," Lyon said. "But I got to share that day with some really great firefighters. I'll never forget telling one of those guys that if I had to go into any fire, it would be with him. And that last day, I got to share it with him."

The report also talks about a dozer group in the same area that narrowly survived. The crew hid from intense heat and flames in a small garage before it caught fire. They ran out into the road before the roof collapsed and deployed their fire shelters for safety. 

The report is the first time the learning review process is being used in an inter-agency event. The Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service hope to use it to prevent this from happening again. 

To read the entire report click here: http://www.wildfirelessons.net/HigherLogic/System/DownloadDocumentFile.ashx?DocumentFileKey=77159beb-18bd-bdbc-57ad-12fe11d38cd2&forceDialog=0