13-y-o grandson of Enchanted Forest founder among multiple dead as wildfires ravage Western states
Written by TM of JC on September 11, 2020
Wyatte Tofte, the 13-year-old great-grandson of the creator of the Oregon fantasy theme park The Enchanted Forest, and his grandmother, Peggy Mosso, are among multiple people killed by wildfires that have razed homes, churches and millions of acres across the Pacific Northwest.
Their deaths were confirmed by the park on Facebook Wednesday.
Angela Mosso, Tofte’s mother, survived the Beachie Creek fire only after she was forced to leave her disabled mother behind. She suffered severe burns and is being treated in an intensive care unit.
“We are devastated to confirm that Wyatt Tofte has not survived. He was found a short while ago,” the statement from the theme park reads.
“Wyatt was Roger’s great-grandson and is loved and adored by all of his family and friends. His grandmother, Peggy Mosso, was also taken. She was also a loved and important member of our extended family. We ask for privacy and love right now.”
The harrowing details of how the Beachie Creek wildfires ravaged the family who lived near Lyons, Oregon, were shared by the 13-year-old’s father, Chris Tofte, and a family friend in multiple interviews with The Statesman Journal.
According to the report, the family had started preparations to leave when they were overwhelmed by the fire.
While his wife packed a few things, Chris Tofte left her, his son, and his mother-in-law behind to go borrow a trailer from a friend.
As Tofte made his way back to his family along a smoke-filled road, he almost ran over a woman in her underwear.
Her hair was singed, her feet were badly burned and her mouth looked almost black, he recalled.
He hurriedly tried to help her while explaining that he needed to find his wife and son only to realize that the woman was his wife.
He was reportedly left numb by the revelation but turned the trailer around to get help for his wife. He soon connected with paramedics, who treated Angela Mosso, while he searched for his son.
While waiting for her husband to return home on Tuesday, Mosso and the rest of her family went to bed. They later woke up with their house on fire.
Everyone, including Duke, the family’s 200-pound bull mastiff mix, and three cats, were able to get out.
They were then supposed to leave the home. But Chris believes the car they could have used must have caught fire.
The mother told her son to make a run for it with the dog, reports The Statesman Journal. Then, she was forced to make the difficult decision of leaving her 71-year-old mother behind.
Peggy Mosso had suffered a broken leg in a fall, so she couldn’t escape on foot.
At the Legacy Emanuel Hospital Burn Center in Portland, where she remains in critical condition, Angela Mosso begged her husband to find her son.
“Don’t come back until you find him,” she reportedly told him.
The son was reportedly found next to the family dog, NBC News reported. Authorities are still searching for Peggy Mosso’s remains.
There are more than 30 active fires in Oregon as of Friday and an estimated 500,000 residents are in mandatory evacuation zones, according to the Oregon joint information center.
The death of Tofte and his grandmother are the first two casualties reported from fires in the state.
The Assemblies of God reported Thursday that the Living Water Family Fellowship church located 2 miles outside of Blue River — a community of about 800 — was destroyed along with the town in a wildfire believed to have been sparked by a transformer that went down in high winds.
Doug Fairrington, who has led the church with his wife, Cheri, for the past six years, said they lost power at around 8 p.m. Monday.
Shortly after that, they were told by authorities that they had one hour to evacuate.
“The corridor is 50 miles long and one mile wide,” Fairrington said. “The transformer provided the spark and an unusual east winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour [gusting to 60 mph] did the rest — it created a fire tunnel that literally gutted our area.
“The church and the parsonage are gone,” Fairrington said in a statement. “The high school, post office, … all gone.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said more than 900,000 acres have burned as of Thursday, according to NBC News.
Earlier this week, residents of Phoenix, another small town of about 4,000, returned to survey damage from the Almeda Fire. On Friday, a 41-year-old man was arrested and charged with two counts of arson after allegedly starting a fire in Phoenix.
“There were flames across the street from me, flames to the right of me, flames to the left of me. I just watched everything burn,” Jonathan Weir, whose home was destroyed, told a local reporter.
In Washington state, a series of wildfires have burned through nearly 587,000 acres since Monday, My Northwest reported.
“This is an extraordinary series of events we have suffered,” Gov. Jay Inslee said at a press conference Wednesday where he declared a statewide emergency.
On Thursday, Inslee also issued a proclamation to help families and individuals impacted by wildfires with cash assistance and immediate needs.
“For families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the devastating wildfires ravaging our state, funding from the Family Emergency Assistance Program can be, quite literally, a lifesaver,” Inslee said. “The state will continue to look for ways to support communities as we work together to recover from multiple economic and health emergencies.”
The northwest region of the U.S. Forest Service, which covers Washington state and Oregon, stated Thursday they had 5,117 fire personnel, 128 crews, 36 air resources and 431 engines battling “30 large fires burning 1,377,383 acres.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a briefing that with 2.3 million acres burned this year, 2020 is now the biggest wildfire season in the state’s modern history. At this time last year, only 118,000 acres had burned.
The death toll from the fires was at least 12 for the month of September, NBC News reported.
The National Interagency Fire Center reports that so far this year, 41,599 fires have burned 5,288,247 acres.
California remains in the top spot for the state with the most acres burned, followed by Arizona, Colorado, Montana, and Texas.