As wildfires ravage the West Coast, one boy and his dog died huddled together in a car, where they sought safety from the flames.
Wyatt Tofte, 13, died Tuesday in the wildfires in Marion County, Oregon, along with his 71-year-old grandmother, Peggy Mosso, a family spokesperson told CNN.
Mosso was found dead in a car that went up in flames, as her daughter and Wyatt Tofte’s mother, Angela, stood nearby attempting to save her. Angela survived but is in critical condition. Her husband and Tofte’s father, Chris, also survived.
“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,” a family statement said.
“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.”
The Salem Statesman Journal reported Chris Tofte’s search for his wife, son and mother-in-law as the fire raged around him. On Tuesday, he found his wife badly burned, walking along the road to their home when he returned with a borrowed trailer to retrieve their belongings.
He didn’t recognize her at first, he told the newspaper, and he told her he was searching for his wife and son.
“I am your wife,” Angela replied, according to the Statesman Journal.
Wyatt Tofte was found in a different car, and the family assumes he ran and got into the car thinking he would be protected from the surrounding flames, the family spokesperson said.
“Wyatt, just the sweetest little boy; loved to fish, played video games, like a lot of kids, just a very sweet polite, boy,” said Susan Vaslev, a family spokesperson.
There is a GoFundMe page for donations to the family.
At least four people have been killed by the fires in Oregon and Washington state. And wildfires in California have killed at least 20 people since mid-August.
In southern Oregon, two small cities – Phoenix and Talent, home to 11,000 people combined – have been almost completely destroyed by the fires.
“This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday.