Wildfire survivor speaks from his hospital bed

Justin Knutsen, 33, of Spokane County, says he feels fortunate to be alive.

Justin Knutsen, of Elk, Wash., says his wife and children, including a 7-month-old daughter, had minutes to escape their home on Aug. 18 after a wildfire evacuation order was issued for the Oregon Road Fire.

After his family left, he drove his truck to check on other neighbors nearby.

In broadcast-ready soundbites, Knutsen describes harrowing details of how he was caught amid the flames, even as he decided to try to alert two people whose location was unknown to the Sherriff’s Department. His truck failed from the intense heat. Ultimately he was picked up by a neighbor as she escaped the wildfire.

“I was watching my skin drip off,” he said. “My skin was melting. I hopped in her car and I just repeatedly kept telling her that I loved her."

Knutsen is currently in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center and is recovering from burns to approximately 30% of his body. Harborview is the only Level I trauma and burn center in Washington state.

Knutsen said he feels fortunate to have survived and is eager to get home to his family and community.

UW Medicine