SEATTLE — A veteran volunteer firefighter remains in critical condition after getting second and third-degree burns while fighting a wildfire in eastern Washington.
Christian Johnson, an assistant chief for the Okanogan County Fire Department, suffered burns on more than 50 percent of his body while responding to the Spring Coulee Fire earlier this month.
Johnson was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Sept. 1, where he remains in critical condition.
The doctors, nurses and care staff at Harborview are taking it "day by day" as Johnson remains sedated.
"Before we can even talk about rehab and the next steps, we have to first take care of the steps that we are taking now. He's critically ill and we have to take it one day at a time," Dr. Sam Arbabi, a professor of surgery at the University of Washington, told media Thursday.
Dr. Arbabi did not go into specifics of the injuries but called Johnson's burns "extensive" with respiratory damage.
Pam Johnson described her husband as "compassionate, selfless, kind, caring and humble. He was always ready to help someone. He believes in giving back to his community through volunteering."
Johnson is an Army veteran who was deployed to Iraq and spent several years in the military. He also spent 20 years as a volunteer firefighter in Okanogan.
The couple had discussed possibilities of a worst-case scenario -- both in his Army days and his days a firefighter.
"You hope it doesn't happen, but if it does, you move forward. Always move forward," Pam Johnson said.
Pam said she draws her strength from her love for Christian: "We're tough enough to get through this."
She did not realize the extent of Christian's injuries until she arrived at Harborview and was able to talk to doctors and see her husband with her own eyes.
"He is definitely a fighter. His body is fighting. It's going to be a long road. It's not going to be an easy road," said Arbabi. "It'll be a road that has issues, but it's something we've walked with other patients and it's one we have the honor to walk with this patient."