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RUPERT — A local woman is staying positive while she rebuilds a life for herself and her two adult sons after she lost her home two weeks ago to a catastrophic fire.

Kathy Mooso, 75, had a premonition that she shouldn’t go to Boise with her daughter Kirsten Marriott — who had an April 18 doctor’s appointment — but she went anyway.

While in Boise, her phone rang and her neighbor told her she needed to get back to Rupert because her house was on fire.

“I knew it was bad when they said there were seven fire trucks there,” she said.

Her first thoughts turned to her sons, 52-year-old Troy, whose spine was injured 11 years ago in a roll-over accident on the interstate, and 55-year-old Justin, who suffered lasting cognitive impairments two years ago during a vehicle crash.

Both were at home that day.

Troy Mooso, a paraplegic, had been raking leaves and spring cleaning in the yard when he decided to burn a little pile of rubbish near a rosebush that he couldn’t reach from his wheelchair.

A garden hose was nearby so he didn’t think twice about lighting the fire. An east wind picked up a spark from the pile and carried it to a nearby arborvitae bush growing against the house.

Dead needles in the bush ignited.

The fire immediately spread to a second bush and both became engulfed in flames. From there the fire blew under the eaves of the house and into the rafters.

“If I had two legs I probably could have put it out,” he said.

He began screaming for help because his wheelchair was stuck in the mud and the fire in the bushes was burning five feet from his back.

“I couldn’t move, my wheels just kept digging in deeper,” he said. “You can still see the ruts where I was spinning out.

A neighbor heard his cries and helped him get away from the fire. Justin Mooso also made it out of the house safely, along with the family’s two cats.

A lifetime up in smoke

Kathy Mooso and her husband, Don, built the brick home as newlyweds when she was 18 years old.

Her husband died in November from cancer.

“I had no idea what the extent of the damages would be,” she said. “I thought maybe there would be a little bit of damage to the roof or something.”

Most of the belongings went up in flames; what wasn’t damaged in the fire was ruined by smoke and water.

The family left their home that day with the clothing on their backs but later recovered a few items. Since then, they have been staying at a Burley hotel until the insurance money runs out.

She doesn’t know what the insurance will cover, but she knows the money won’t come close to replacing a lifetime worth of treasures.

Troy Mooso’s specialized $10,000 bed — a bed that prevents pressure sores — and a $1,000 cushion for his wheelchair were destroyed in the fire. Sleeping on a hotel bed for the past two weeks has caused a new sore to emerge, he said.

A restoration company removed some items from the home that they will attempt to restore and clean, Kathy Mooso said, and they were able to salvage a piano and three guitars.

The remainder of their belongings was piled in a dumpster outside the house.

“I haven’t seen any of our items, so I don’t know what kind of condition anything is in, but I suspect it’s not good,” she said. “The bottom line is you can sit and cry and cry or you can pick yourself up and move on.

“My boys are OK and I’m going to be a great-grandmother in October. I’m stronger than I thought I was. If I just lie down and say, ‘that’s all she wrote,’ what would happen to my boys? I’m a lot stronger than I ever thought.”

Moving forward

“They say God only gives you what you can handle,” said Kathy Mooso, who prays every night that her run of bad luck is over.

In a couple of months, the family plans to move into her daughter’s home in Hansen.

“You can’t explain this kind of loss, there are no words,” said family friend Gary Schorzman of Rupert.

Schorzman knew Kathy Mooso and her husband when they were teenagers and was often a dinner guest at the Mooso home.

“She has been through so much and she’s remained solid as a rock all through it,” he said. “Through all of her tragedy and loss and her boys’ misfortune, she has been right there for them.”

Kathy Mooso and her youngest son depend on each other and despite being confined to a wheelchair, he helps around the house mopping the floors. Last summer he grew a beautiful vegetable garden.

“We laugh together and cry together and take care of things together,” she said.

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