Report: Fallen firefighter lacked protective jacket

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OKANOGAN — The Okanogan County firefighter killed by last September’s Spring Coulee Fire may have become entangled in metal debris before suffering fatal burns.

A new report on the Sept. 1 incident finds that Okanogan Assistant Fire Chief Christian Johnson and a teammate ran on foot when the wind shifted and their fire truck was overtaken by flames.

Johnson found himself in a field of metal refuse without his fire-retardant “turnout” jacket. His teammate later discovered him badly burned about 150 feet from the truck. He had apparently worn his turnout pants but left his protective jacket stowed in the cargo bed.

Johnson died one month later at Harborview Medical Center. Fire teams managed to keep the blaze to 107 acres, and successfully protected a barn and other structures.

The report, by a multi-agency fire investigation team, says the absence of a jacket likely contributed to the severity of Johnson’s injuries, but it’s impossible to know why he left it behind.