Wyatt Tofte turned 13 in February of this year. His family owns Enchanted Forest, a Theme Park set on a hill in a beautiful forest setting in Salem, Oregon.
On September 8, the devastating wildfires that are ravaging the West coast took hold of the area surrounding the family home where Wyatt Tofte lived with his parents, Chris and Angela, and his grandmother, Peggy Mosso. Despite heroic efforts, the lives of both Peggy and Wyatt were claimed by the fires. Wyatt was found on the driver's seat of the family car with his dog on his lap. His grandmother was in the back seat.
“Peggy was a devoted grandmother who always had a smile on her face and always had kind words to give. Wyatt was a kindhearted, strong, and brave young boy who was fascinated by trains and loved to go fishing,” reads a message from the family on their GoFundMe .
Wyatt is being hailed a hero in the community, here is what happened.
There were high winds and the power went out at the family home. It seemed likely that an evacuation order was coming, so Chris left to borrow a trailer from a friend, while Angie packed up their belongings. While waiting for his return, Angie went to bed when she awoke, flames had engulfed their home.
Angie got Wyatt, her mother Peggy, their three cats, and dog, jumped in the family vehicle, and attempted they attempted to make their escape. That's when something went wrong. Though it's not clear exactly what happened, Chris believes that the car must have caught fire. At this point, Angie had to act fast. She made a decision to save Wyatt. She told him and Duke, the family's 200-pound bullmastiff mix, to run for it.
In what must have been a devastating decision, Angela would have to leave her mother behind if she wanted to survive. Peggy had a broken leg and wouldn't be able to walk downhill. Angela was able to out-walk the fire by traveling close to three miles on foot. If she has shoes when she started to walk, they were burned off when she was found.
Chris Tofte was on his way back to the family home with the trailer. It was 4 am and he needed to get back to his wife and son. Roads he had driven down just a short time ago were now covered by smoke and darkness. He almost ran over a woman who appeared to be his wearing a bikini. Chris stopped to help her, upon closer inspection he realized the clothes had been burned from her body and she was left with only underwear. "Her hair was singed, her mouth looked almost black, and her bare feet were severely burned," he told the Statesman Journal . He hurried the woman into his car, explaining he needed to get to his wife and son. The woman finally spoke: "I am your wife".
He quickly drove her down the mountain to medical help. Angela was transported first to Salem Hospital, then to the Legacy Emanuel Hospital Burn Center in Portland, where she remains in critical condition. In addition to her feet, she has burns on her arms and back.
The only message for she had for her husband: "Don't come back until you find him".
Chris headed back up the mountain. The fire had spread and he wasn't able to make it back to his home, or find Wyatt. Friends and family who could help joined the search, which spanned over several days. They were limited in what could be done, the area was extremely dangerous.
Sadly, Wyatt Tofte succumbed to the fire. He is credited with heroically going back to try to save his grandmother from the blaze. Tragically, she died too. Wyatt was found with his dog Duke, draped over him. The grandmother's remains were later found in the same car.
The family statement, given to CNN, read, “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".
"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. Angie is in critical condition with full-body burns," the statement said. "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."
There is a GoFundMe page for donations to the family.