Over labour day weekend, Oregon saw the most intense wildfire event ever recorded. A combination of high winds and extremely low humidity caused dozens of fires to start between Monday and Tuesday. Those fires quickly spread across the landscape, covering more than 230 thousand acres .
Since the fires began, thousands of residents have been forced to evacuate their homes. Two small cities in southern Oregon that were home to eleven thousand people, Phoenix and Talent, have been completely destroyed. At least four people have died .
The amount of loss the people of Oregon have experienced over the last few weeks has been devastating. One man in particular experienced this loss more than most, when his search for his wife and family ended tragically.
“I Am Your Wife”
Chris Tofte lived in Lyons, Oregon, with his wife, Angie, her mother, Peggy, and their thirteen-year-old son, Wyatt. Thinking they had time before they needed to evacuate, Chris had driven into town to borrow a friend’s trailer. Angie stayed behind to pack up some of their things, with the plan to leave the next morning.
That night, however, the Beachie Creek Fire reached their home, and the family had no choice but to get out immediately. Angie, Wyatt, Peggy, their dog and their three cats were set to leave when something went wrong. Although he doesn’t know for sure, Chris believes the car likely caught fire.
Without a car, the family would have to escape on foot. Angie sent her son and their dog, telling them to “run for it”. Her mother, 71-year-old Peggy, would not be able to run. She had recently broken her leg and was unable to walk. Angie had no choice but to leave her mother behind .
In an effort to save his family, Chris drove as fast as he could back toward their home. It was four o’clock in the morning, the fires were raging and he could barely see through the smoke in the dark of night.
About half way there, as he drove down the road, he came across a woman wearing only underwear. Her hair was burnt, her mouth was almost black, and she had severe burns on her bare feet and the rest of her body.
Chris stopped to help her, telling her that he was looking for his wife and son. That’s when she finally spoke up, saying “I am your wife” .
Searching for Wyatt
Chris left his wife with paramedics and immediately turned back around to find his son. By then, however, the fires had already spread and he wasn’t able to make it as far as he had initially.
The next day and night, Chris continued to search. Some friends and family joined him, while others spread the word by posting pictures of Wyatt on Facebook. The posts got shared thousands of times.
Sadly, Wyatt was found on Wednesday in the drivers side of a vehicle on the family’s property with his dog Duke draped across his lap. The remains of his grandmother were also found in the car. The family do not know why the young boy went back to his home .
“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 .
Support for the Family
Angela is currently in critical condition and is being treated at the Legacy Emanuel Hospital Burn Center in Portland. She has severe burns to her feet, arms, and back.
Friends of the family have set up a GoFundMe page for donations to Chris and Angie as they struggle through this devastating time.