A husband desperately searching for his family in an Oregon wildfire has told how he was unable to recognize his wife because she was so badly burned, as it’s revealed their 13-year-old son died while clutching his pet dog.
Chris Tofte spoke of the heartbreaking moment his wife Angela, who is now in a critical condition in hospital, told him ‘I am your wife’ as he helped her into his car and told her he was searching for his missing wife, son and mother-in-law in the Santiam Fire in Marion County Tuesday.
The couple’s son Wyatt Tofte, 13, died Tuesday in the blaze after huddling in a car with his pet dog to try to escape the roaring flames.
The boy’s 71-year-old grandmother Peggy Mosso was also killed as Angela tried in vain to free her from a burning vehicle.
At least 29 people have been killed in the devastating wildfires that continue to ravage the West Coast with Oregon officials bracing for a ‘mass fatality event’ after 10 percent of the population has been forced to flee their homes and two large blazes threaten to merge around the most populated part of the state.
Chris Tofte (pictured as the search continued for his son Wyatt Wednesday) spoke of the heartbreaking moment he was unable to recognize his wife because she was so badly burned, as it’s revealed their 13-year-old son died while clutching his pet dog
Wyatt Tofte (pictured) was killed in an Oregon wildfire this week after huddling in a car with his dog to try to escape the flames
Wyatt (pictured in an undated image) died Tuesday in the Santiam Fire in Marion County, along with his 71-year-old grandmother, Peggy Mosso (center). Wyatt’s mom Angela Tofte (left) is in critical condition with full body burns
New details have emerged of Wyatt’s and Mosso’s horrifying final moments and the desperate rescue efforts of the Toftes to try to find their loved ones alive as the flames ripped through the neighborhood where they lived.
Bereaved mom Angela was so badly burned that her husband Chris didn’t recognize her when he passed her during his frantic search to locate his missing son, wife and mother-in-law.
Chris told the Statesman Journal he was driving into the wildfires looking for his family around 4am Tuesday when he spotted Angela on the road.
She was wearing underwear, her bare feet were severely burned and her hair and mouth were black, he told the outlet.
He stopped to help her into his car but her injuries had left her unrecognizable from her usual self and he did not realize she was his wife, he said.
When he told her he needed to find his wife and son, she replied: ‘I am your wife.’
Angela and Chris both survived but Wyatt and Mosso were consumed by the blaze and their bodies discovered by rescue teams later this week.
Their devastated family broke their silence to tell how the teenager’s parents desperately searched for their son as the flames ripped through the neighborhood where they lived. Pictured Peggy Mosso (left) and Wyatt Tofte (right)
Mosso (left) and Wyatt (center). The family spokesperson said they believe Wyatt ran and clambered inside the vehicle with his dog to try to escape the roaring flames. Mosso was found dead in a separate car that became engulfed in flames as Angela – Mosso’s daughter – desperately tried to save her from the fireball, herself sustaining full body burns
Chris Tofte hugs a friend as they search for his son Wyatt Wednesday who was not seen since the blaze ripped through the area Tuesday
Chris leads a search Wednesday for his son who was missing at the time. His body was later discovered by search teams
Chris spoke of the heartbreaking moment Angela told him ‘I am your wife’ as he helped her and told her he was searching for his missing family
The dad is seen on the phone after receiving news of Wyatt’s death on Wednesday in Lyons, Oregon
The devastated family told CNN the body of ‘kind-hearted’ Wyatt was found in a car with his pet dog Duke on his lap.
‘After a long search for Wyatt, he was found in a car with his dog on his lap, but unfortunately, was not able to escape the fire,’ a family statement said.
The family spokesperson said they believe Wyatt ran and clambered inside the vehicle with his dog to try to escape the roaring flames.
The boy’s grandmother was found dead in a separate car that became engulfed in flames as Angela – Mosso’s daughter – desperately tried to save her from the fireball, herself sustaining full body burns.
The family paid tribute to Wyatt and Mosso and thanked emergency crews for helping in the search.
‘Our family is devastated by the loss of our kind-hearted 13-year-old Wyatt and his beloved grandmother Peggy in the Santiam Fire in the early morning of September 8th,’ the family statement to CNN said.
‘Wyatt, just the sweetest little boy; loved to fish, played video games, like a lot of kids, just a very sweet polite, boy.
‘We want to thank all emergency personnel and people who helped in the search. Our family appreciates the love and support we have received from everyone during this terrible tragedy.’
Oregon firefighters work behind caution tape in Mill City, Oregon, on Thursday as they continue to battle the Santiam Fire
Firefighters douse embers of the Santiam Fire in Mill City Thursday. At least 29 people have been killed in the devastating wildfires that continue to ravage the West Coast
A charred swing set and car are seen after the passage of the Santiam Fire in Gates, Oregon, Thursday. Oregon officials are bracing for a ‘mass fatality event’
The charred remains of the Gates Elementary School, which was being used as a staging ground by firefighters, after the Santiam Fire ripped through it
At least eight people have been reported dead in the Oregon wildfires although authorities are yet to confirm official figures and dozens are unaccounted for.
Marion County officials said Friday evening that rescue crews had found two more victims of the Beachie Creek fire near Salem.
Another victim’s body was found in a home near Goodpasture Road in Vida after the Holiday Farm Fire ripped through the area.
Fears are mounting that the death toll could climb much higher as Oregon’s emergency management director, Andrew Phelps, warned officials are ‘preparing for a mass fatality event’.
‘We know we’re dealing with fire-related deaths and we’re preparing for a mass fatality event based on what we know and the number of structures lost,’ he said.
More than one million acres and thousands of structures have been destroyed by the dozens of blazes across the state sending 10 percent of residents fleeing their homes in their masses.
The Bobcat Fire burns down trees in the Angeles National Forest on Friday in Monrovia, California
Volunteer Elizabeth Stoltz of Heisson waters the Fort Vancouver Garden in Vancouver, Washington, on Friday
Oregon Gov. Brown said 500,000 Oregonians were in some sort of evacuation zone Friday – a slight dialing back on a statement late Thursday issued by the state Office of Emergency Management that said a half-million people had been ordered to evacuate statewide.
Dozens of people are missing in Jackson County in the south and Marion County, where a fire continues to burn east of Salem, Brown told a news conference Friday.
Hundreds of firefighters battled two large wildfires Friday that threatened to merge near the most populated part of the state, including the suburbs of Portland, causing the city to declare a state of emergency Thursday.
National Guard troops and corrections officers transferred about 1,300 inmates from a women’s prison in a southern suburb of Portland ‘out of an abundance of caution,’ the Oregon Department of Corrections said.
Spokeswoman Vanessa Vanderzee said it took 20 hours to transfer the inmates Thursday to another prison in a safe zone.
In California at least 20 have died and there has been at least one death reported in Washington state.
Four people have been arrested for arson for deliberately starting blazes along the West Coast while the states are already grappling with dozens of deadly blazes.
Michael Jarrod Bakkela, 41, was arrested Friday and charged with arson, for allegedly setting a fire in southern Oregon earlier this week, while the area was already grappling with the deadly Almeda Fire. Anita Esquivel was arrested and booked into Monterey County Jail on arson charges for starting fires in California
Two men in Washington state, one man in Oregon and one woman in California are facing arson charges, authorities said.
Michael Jarrod Bakkela, 41, was arrested Friday and charged with two counts of arson, 15 counts of criminal mischief and 14 counts of reckless endangering for allegedly setting a fire in southern Oregon earlier this week, while the area was already grappling with the deadly Almeda Fire.
The blaze grew to merge with the Almeda – which started about six hours earlier – and has now killed at least two people.
Bakkela was allegedly spotted setting a fire behind a home in Phoenix around 5 p.m. Tuesday, causing the residents to flee.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said deputies arrived on the scene to find Bakkela ‘standing close to a very large fire threatening several homes.’
Authorities said the fire started by Bakkela caused ‘significant damage’ and destroyed ‘numerous homes’.
Bakkela was arrested Tuesday for a probation violation on a charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine and was later charged Friday in connection with the Almeda Fire.
He is booked at the Jackson County Jail and is expected to be arraigned Monday.
In California, a 37-year-old woman was also arrested Friday accused of intentionally starting an unknown number of fires on Highway 101 near Boronda Road around 9am Friday morning.
Shawn Thompson hugs Melissa Vuckovich after an unsuccessful search for their missing cat, at the location of where their home once stood in Ashland Oregon
Firefighters work on a smoldering fire in a burned neighborhood in Talent, Oregon. Four people have been arrested for arson for deliberately starting blazes along the West Coast
Talent Oregon on Friday. Two men in Washington state, one man in Oregon and one woman in California are facing arson charges for setting fires in areas that were already grappling with deadly blazes
Anita Esquivel was arrested and booked into Monterey County Jail on arson charges.
The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office later dismissed rumors that she had ties to extreme left-wing activist group Antifa.
The Office told KION there was no information or evidence suggesting she was connected to the group.
Two other men were arrested for starting blazes in Washington state this week, authorities confirmed.
A 36-year-old Puyallup resident was arrested Wednesday for allegedly starting a fire on State Route 167 at Meridian.
The next day another unidentified man was detained following a short cop chase on foot over a blaze the man allegedly started at State Route 512 and State Route 7.
This comes as Oregon authorities said Thursday they are investigating whether the cause of the Almeda Fire that has killed two was an arson attack after a body was discovered near the start of the blaze.
Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara announced Thursday a criminal investigation had been opened into the cause of the fire saying he believes the circumstances around it are ‘suspicious’.
Investigators are looking into the possible connection between the blaze and the death of an unidentified individual, whose body was found near the origin of the fire.
The National Weather Service (NWS) revealed a staggering 87 percent of all wildfires that have ravaged America this year were caused by humans.
A camp crew truck was destroyed on Stringtown Road in a Thursday evening flare-up in Oroville, California, which burned over the truck in the Bear Fire
Boaters pass by the Seattle skyline during hazy air conditions on Friday morning as smoke pollution from wildfires raging in California and across the Pacific Northwest worsened in San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon
Farm equipment is seen through heavy smoke on Friday in Molalla, Oregon. Multiple wildfires grew by hundreds of thousands of acres this week, prompting large-scale evacuations throughout the state
With the prevalence of human-caused fires and the current unrest the nation is grappling with, state and national authorities have been forced to deny unsubstantiated rumors that have surfaced online that wildfires have been intentionally set by extreme right-wing or extreme left-wing groups.
The FBI said Friday that it’s investigated several claims and found them to be untrue, while officials in Oregon and Washington state have turned to Facebook to knock down the competing narratives – some posts blamed far-left antifa activists and others claimed the far-right group the Proud Boys was responsible for the fires scorching wide swaths of the region.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday that the blazes were proof of the perils of climate change, denouncing the ‘ideological BS’ of those who deny the danger and vowing Friday to accelerate the state’s already ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gasses.
‘The data is self-evident, the experience that we have in the state of California just underscoring the reality of the ravages of climate change,’ he said.
‘Mother Nature is physics, biology and chemistry. She bats last and she bats one thousand. That’s the reality we’re facing, the smash mouth reality – this perfect storm. The debate is over around climate change.’
Newsom warned that ‘unless we get our act together on climate change, unless we disabuse ourselves of all the BS that’s being spewed by a very small group of people,’ then time to take action will be lost.
Newsom noted that just in the last month, California had its hottest August, with world-record-setting heat in Death Valley.
It had 14,000 dry lightning strikes that set off hundreds of fires, some that combined into creating five of the 10 largest fires in the state’s recorded history.