BRIDGEPORT – The death of a toddler in the Cold Springs Fire is being investigated as a homicide just in case the fire’s start is determined to be a criminal act.
The child and his parents were caught in the fire, with the mother and father suffering burns.
Jake Hyland, 31, and Jamie Hyland, 26, and their child, Uriel, 22 months, were found Sept. 9 on the bank of the Columbia River upstream from Chief Joseph Dam.
As of Monday morning, Sept. 14, both Jake and Jamie Hyland were listed in serious condition in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center, Seattle.
Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley said his office is investigating the death as a homicide “so we are sure to collect the best evidence possible.”
Detectives from his office are working with other agencies, including Colville Tribal Police detectives.
“With a death involved with the fire we need to treat it as a worst-case scenario should the investigation of the cause of the fire be determined to be human-caused and deliberate,” he said. “It is very difficult to get the needed information for a prosecution if we do not dedicate the resources to this investigation right now.”
No arrests have been made, said Hawley. He declined to say whether it’s thought the fire was set, but said investigators are working to determine the fire’s cause. Anyone with information is asked to contact his office, 509-422-7200.
The Hylands apparently had inherited property off Cameron Lake Road recently and were in Okanogan County dropping off items on Sunday, Sept. 6 – before the fire began. Extended family reported them missing after they failed to return home to Renton on Monday.
Hawley said their empty, burnt pickup truck was found by a family friend on Paxton Canyon Road off Cameron Lake Road’s southern end, about 9.5 miles out of Monse. The vehicle was off the road.
He said they apparently had been trying to get away from the fire.
The family was found by a Colville tribal Department of Natural Resources boat crew along the Columbia River. All suffered burns.
They were taken to Bridgeport State Park by boat, then by Brewster Ambulance to Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster. The couple later was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment of burns and other injuries.
“It’s terrible,” said Hawley.
The child was deceased when found, said Okanogan County Coroner Dave Rodriguez.
An autopsy was performed Sept. 11 and samples sent out for lab analysis, he said. While the child died from a combination of smoke, inhaled heat and thermal injuries, lab results are expected to determine which was the overriding factor in the child’s death.
“My heart breaks for the family of the child who perished in the Cold Springs Fire,” said state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “I am devastated. The (Department of Natural Resources) family is devastated. The pain that family is going through is unfathomable.”
The death was Washington’s first fatality of the 2020 wildfires, said Gov. Jay Inslee.
“Trudi (his wife) and I were heartbroken to hear about the loss of this child in the wildfires that have ravaged our state,” he said. “There is nothing I can say that can ease the pain from a loss of this magnitude. This child’s family and community will never be the same.
“And neither will countless others who are reeling from the utter devastation these wildfires are leaving in their wake. I send my deepest condolences to the family and friends of this child, and am keeping the parents in my mind as they work toward recovery in intensive care.”
A gofundme.com page has been set up to help the couple under the name “Hyland Family – Emergency Fund!” As of Monday morning, Sept. 14, $258,908 had been raised toward a $300,000 goal.
The initial goal was $20,000, but it was increased to $200,000 and then $300,000 because of the magnitude of the medical costs involved, according to postings on the page.
According to postings by page creator Tammie Mabry, wife of Jake Hyland’s cousin, Jamie Hyland suffered burns on 40-50 percent of her body, mostly the upper body, while Jake Hyland’s burns were to 25 percent of his body - mostly his arms, chest and face. His right hand, which he apparently used to stop embers and fire, received the most severe burns.
Both suffered lung damage, and she has multiple infections but is responding to antibiotics, according to the posts. Both require surgeries.
“She has a road ahead of her but she is a warrior and fighting with everything that she has in her,” said a Sept. 12 update. “Jake was able to come see Jamie today. He told her to keep fighting, and that he is, too.”
He is undergoing physical therapy.
“The way they escaped and the decision they made in getting to the river after the fire passed are nothing short of heroic,” said the update. “It was Jake and Jamie’s faith in God that kept them alive … against all odds they survived. Now people all over the world are rooting for them.”
“During every fire season, I wake up each day praying we will not lose a single life — civilian or firefighter,” said Franz. “To be honest, it’s horrible that we must base so much on prayer.
“My team at DNR and the firefighting community all across Washington will continue working as hard as we can to protect lives and communities. But I need every single resident of Washington to care about this. Not just today, but tomorrow, and every day until we have the resources to protect our communities and protect our firefighters.”
No other injuries have been reported and no one else has been reported missing in the fire, which continues to burn.