Douglas County Woman Thanks The DNR Warden Who Saved Her Life


On the night of May 14, June Thielen was evacuated from her home in the town of Highland as the Germann Road fire approached the area.

The person – or angel, as she calls him – who banged at her door was Department of Natural Resources Warden Lance Burns of nearby Gordon. Burns had been on site since shortly after the wildfire started.

“We started doing evacuations and I knew that June was back on the end of that road there,” says Burns. “So I told one of the deputies that I would go down that road and do those evacuations while they continued the other evacuation.”

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

That day, Thielen had been working in her yard and became extremely tired, so she laid down for a nap. She never expected to wake up to a wildfire.

“Someone was trying to break my door down,” she says. “So I went over to the door and a man was there and said, ‘evacuate, fire, June.’

“He even used my name. All I saw was smoke and I was just petrified. He said we have less than five minutes. I’d never seen so many police cars, cop cars in my life. And they said just go June, just floor that hemi. And I did. I was just so scared.”

The next day, she found out that her house had been spared but she had lost one of her standalone garages.

After that, she was on a mission.

“I said, ‘I’ve got to find my angel.’ And a voice behind me says I was there June, it was me. And I turned around and I was like, ‘Lance!’ because I know him. But when he was here that day I never saw him, and I just hugged him. And that hug went all the way to Scott Walker’s office.”

A week later, Burns got the Life Saving award from Gov. Scott Walker for his efforts. Burns says he is honored to receive the award, but it wasn’t just him: “There was a whole herd of other people and not only law enforcement. There were fire department people, volunteer fire fighters, and ambulance crews – everybody pitched in.”

Burns has been keeping in touch with Thielen since the fire.