Mother left ‘unrecognisable’ by Oregon wildfire may spend months in burns unit, says family

Andrew Buncombe
·3-min read
It was several days before body of Chris Tofte's teenage son was recovered  (Associated Press)
It was several days before body of Chris Tofte's teenage son was recovered (Associated Press)

The woman left unrecognisable to her husband because of the burns she suffered in an Oregon wildfire, will likely spend months in a a specialist unit.

Angela Mosso lost her mother and 13-year-old son, Wyatt Tofte, when fires swept through the Santiam Valley, east of Salem last week. Ms Mosso was rescued by her husband, Chris Tofte, who returned to their home to save her.

Initially, he did not recognize the woman he encountered on the road to their property, telling her: “I'm really sorry but I've got to keep going because my family is up there. I got to get up to my son and my wife.” She somehow managed to reveal who she was.

Ms Mosso is now being treated in a specialist burns in Portland, and may be there for months.

Susan Vaslev, Mr Tofte’s aunt and the organiser of a GoFundMe campaign, told The Independent that while a recent surgery had been successful, Ms Mosso will likely be in the unit for months.

She said the family had been told a major medical challenge would be to graft skin onto the soles of her feet. While she had set off from her home - having believed her son had gone to safety with his dog - wearing shoes, they burned off during the three miles she walked to safety.

“That is apparently one of the hardest things,” she said. “Because you need the sensitivity to be able to walk again.”

Ms Vaslev said the family had been inundated with messages of support from around the world. She said people had been touched by the tragedy, but also of the heroism of those involved.

She said Ms Mosso had loaded her 71-year-old mother into a car to try and drive her to safety, but that the flames came so quickly the vehicle caught on fire and she could not get her out.

She told her teenage son to run to safety with their dog, Duke. For two days, Mr Tofte was unable to locate his son or grandmother, his tormented face making headlines.

Then rescuers found them in the car, some distance from the house. The remains of his grandmother were in the back seat, and those of the dog lying across the teenager’s lap.

Wyatt Tofte died trying to drive his grandmother to safetyGoFundMe
Wyatt Tofte died trying to drive his grandmother to safetyGoFundMe

“He had tried to drive her to safety and he had driven the stick-shift. But that road was just so hot,” she said.

Ms Vaslev said another detail had emerged of her nephew’s heroism that night. When Chris Tofte had gone to rescue his wife, he had passed a neighbor and said he he would stop for him on his return. The man had told him that if he was going back up the hill, he “probably wouldn’t see him again”.

But Mr Tofte did stop for the man on his way down the hill, having collected his badly burned wife.

Ms Vaslev said that was now in the same burns unit at Ms Mosso. She said he had made clear he did not want to speak to the media because he did not to detract attention from the story of Mr Tofte’s family.

She said: “I was told that the man went to see Chris, and even though his hands were burned, he insisted on shaking his hand to thank him.”