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"It's overwhelming": Firefighter recounts running through flames in Douglas Co. wildfire

Firefighter Brett Read talks about the ordeal of running through flames in the Grass Valley fire in Douglas County. (Photo: Brett Read)

SEATTLE - Thick bandages can’t hide Brett Read’s incredible strength.

The 38-year-old volunteer firefighter was badly burned last weekend in Washington's largest wildfire.

Read spoke to KOMO News in his first interview Friday from his hospital room.

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"It's overwhelming," said Brett Read from the burn unit at Harborview Medical Center.

He suffered the burns while he was fighting the Grass Valley Fire in Douglas County. That fire has charred close to 75,000 acres.

Read was working with another firefighter when the flames suddenly intensified, growing to around 50 feet tall, and then overtaking them as they fled.

“I came off the back of the truck, and I had to run about fifty yards to the other truck in front of me,” Read recounted. “He was spraying water which was cooling the flames enough so I could come through... Then I jumped on his truck, and from there he drove me straight.”

When asked what he was thinking, he said, “I had to get home to my kids.”

Read suffered burns over nearly 12 percent of his body, including his face and hands.

Eventually he was airlifted to Harborview, where he was still recovering Friday.

“I’m feeling great,” Read said.

His pain is now under control after several days of brutal treatments and physical therapy.

“You’ve got to go through the bad to get to the good,” he said.

He’ll continue to receive daily physical therapy and wound care for the foreseeable future. He doesn’t know when he’ll get to go home.

“I don’t want to rush it,” he said. “I don’t want to come back. That’s for sure.”

Read is a 7-year veteran as a volunteer firefighter at the department. He said he became a firefighter because that's what his parents did. He's proud of the fact they were the first husband-wife firefighting team in Okanogan County.

“I love it,” he said. “It’s a dream job.”

And one he’s not ready to give up.

“I’m going to go back,” he said. “It’s what I do.”

Read has received an outpouring of support.

A GoFundMe account has raised more than $9,500.

Governor Jay Inslee even paid Read a visit in the hospital Thursday and named him ‘Washingtonian of the day,’ tweeting, “here’s to Brett and to all of the firefighters out there risking their lives to help protect our state.”

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