'I’m just really grateful to be alive:' Woman set on fire in Waukesha speaks out

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- On Sept. 2, Amber Fuller was walking her dogs when police say a 39-year-old man ran up to her and set her on fire.

Fuller isn’t ready to go on camera but spoke to CBS 58 over the phone about the moment she was attacked and how she’s getting through the excruciating recovery.

“I’m just really grateful to be alive right now,” Fuller said through tears.

Last Wednesday, Fuller headed out on her morning walk with her two dogs, but barely a block from home, life changed in an instant.

“There was no eye contact,” Fuller said as she described encountering the suspect. “He didn’t say anything.”

Police say that’s when 39-year-old Joel Murn started running at Fuller. She tried to get away but he threw some kind of liquid all over her back.

“It was something I knew was flammable, it had that smell” Fuller said. “I fell and went on my back to try and defend myself, to kick him away, but as I brought my arm up to shield my face, he took out a lighter and lit my arm and that just spread to the rest of my upper body.”

Fuller remembers every detail: rolling on the ground to put out the flames, trying to hold on to her dogs.

“I had to strip my sweatshirt that I was wearing off and at that point I had to let go of their leashes,” Fuller said.

After the fire was out, Fuller got her dogs back before being rushed to a local burn unit. At the hospital, police told her the attack was a case of mistaken identity. Murn meant to target a cousin.

“It didn’t make me feel any better,” Fuller said. “Even the fact that he would do that to a family member really sickened me.”

Fuller, who works as a massage therapist, has second and third degree burns covering her entire back and right arm and part of her stomach.

“When they have to take the bandages off and clean the wound, it’s like a really bad sunburn and you take a hot shower but about 50 times worse,” Fuller said.

The recovery will take months and doctors still don’t know if she’ll need surgery. But Fuller is fighting through the pain and staying optimistic she’ll be able to return to work one day.

“I’m just very thankful that things weren’t worse and that I’m alive to experience what life has to offer after this.”

Fuller says she is following Murn’s case but isn’t ready to watch or attend any court appearances.

There is a GoFundMe set up to help with Fuller’s medical expenses. You can donate here.

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