The Cold Springs Fire near Omak. (Okanogan County Fire District 6)

The Cold Springs Fire near Omak. (Okanogan County Fire District 6)

Okanogan fire kills toddler and badly burns his parents

If the fire turns out to be an arson, officials would treat the child’s death as a potential homicide.

By Ted McDermott / The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.

A 1-year-old died and his parents were hospitalized after suffering injuries in the Cold Springs Fire near Omak, according to the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office.

Jacob Hyland, 31, and Jamie Hyland, 26, of Renton, were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle Wednesday afternoon in critical condition with burns, according to Susan Gregg, a spokesperson for Harborview. They are being cared for by burn specialists.

While the cause of the fire remains unknown, Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley said investigators from his office and the Colville tribal police are to investigate the death of the couple’s son. If the fire turns out to be an arson, they would treat the child’s death as a potential homicide, he said.

“It would be treated as a homicide, if it were to be determined to be a human-caused, criminal fire,” Hawley 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.”

The sheriff’s office first received a call attempting to locate the Hyland family Tuesday around 3:30 p.m.

Other reports of the missing family came in later the same day, Hawley said, after the Hylands’ truck was found burned and abandoned near family property close to Cameron Lake and Paxton Canyon roads.

Investigators believe the Hylands were attempting to escape the Cold Springs Fire when they were forced to abandon the truck, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

Okanogan County Search and Rescue initiated a search, and the family was found along the banks of the Columbia River at about 9:55 a.m. Wednesday.

Jacob and Jamie Hyland were suffering from third-degree burns when search crews discovered the family, Hawley said, and their son was dead.

“It’s a tragic situation that we have to talk about the death of a 1-year-old,” Hawley said.

Jacob and Jamie Hyland were transported to a local hospital before being transferred to Harborview.

The Cold Springs Fire near Omak. (Okanogan County Fire District 6)

The Cold Springs Fire near Omak. (Okanogan County Fire District 6)

The Cold Springs Fire erupted near Omak Sunday night and spanned some 163,000 acres as of Wednesday morning with no containment, despite overnight efforts focused on protecting structures and constructing containment lines.

Hawley said the efforts by largely volunteer firefighters from the area have been “absolutely outstanding.”

“They answer the call when its come up, and they fight to save their neighbor’s home,” he said.

But high winds on Monday made fires in the area “insurmountable to get a handle on.”

A new crew took over the firefighting effort Tuesday morning, Hawley said, and air support also helped battle the blaze.

While resources are coming, Hawley said they “aren’t coming as fast as I’d like to see them.”

He attributed delays to the large number of fires burning across the West.

“We’re competing for resources just like everyone across the nation,” he said.

Hawley, who has been with the sheriff’s office since 1995, said the county has seen people die in wildfires before, though it has mainly been firefighters.

“The death of a 1-year-old doesn’t even compare to when we reach our adulthood and we have choices to be places,” Hawley said. “To even be talking about the death of a 1-year-old is just devastating.”

Hawley urged anyone with information about what sparked the fire to come forward.

“It’s more important than ever that we get this information,” he said, “so that an investigation can be done to determine what led to the death of this child.”

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