Washington man survives wildfires by jumping in nearby lake

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RIVERSIDE, Wash. -- As wildfires rage across Washington burning more than 220,000 acres as of Saturday morning, one man is telling his story of firestorm survival.

Lighter wind has helped firefighters gain some ground on a 374 square mile fire in Washington State. While thousands had to leave their homes, one man chose not to and nearly died trying to save his house.

Officials say only a handful of homes have burned to the ground, but KCPQ’s Steve Kiggins counted at least a dozen near Mark Desdier’s home were visibly destroyed.

Desdier’s arms we covered in burns after he escaped the firestorm.

“I got third degree burns from my elbow to my hands,” Desdier told KCPQ.

Desdier is a lucky man; he thought he was going to die at emerald lake, where home after home were reduced to scorched rubble. Desdier fought to save his own cabin until the fire forced him to flee.

“It went form 20 mile per hour winds to like 40 to 50 mile per hour winds like that. It was like, all over,” he recalled.

The huge plume of smoke quickly turned into an approaching wall of flames. Desdier only had a four-wheeler so he instead had to jump into the lake to survive.

“I was just trying to breath just taking slow deep breathes and staying under the dock,” he said.

He swam for more than an hour until he could run for help.

On Saturday Mark and his wife, Toni, trekked into the woods to see if their place survived and they found it unscathed surrounded by scorched earth and burned trees. They say they feel very fortunate to still have a place to live and each other.

“I`m in utter shock.  I really am, I`m so blessed. I`m really stuck for words on that one because really, how can I be that fortunate when everything else is going on,” said Toni.

“I`m good to go. I got a little gash on my forehead I lost a little bit more hair in the fire. Oh well, life`s good,” said Desdier.

So far firefighters have contained 38 percent of that fire.