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Bend transient accused of burglary, arson in $265,000 office blaze


A 47-year-old transient faces arson, burglary and other charges, accused of breaking into a southwest Bend office building early Thursday and setting a fire that caused $265,000 in damages, police and fire officials said.

Police and fire crews responded around 12:50 a.m. to the fire report at a two-story office building at 185 SW Shevlin Hixon Drive, said police Lt. Jason Maniscalco.

Arriving officers encountered Eric Michael Noell nearby and “determined he was responsible for starting the fire,” Maniscalco said in a news release, adding that he “reportedly broke in and set the fire from within the building,” which officials said housed several tenants, including Bend Trend Homes, D’Agostino Parker and Guild Mortgage.

Fire crews arrived to find the front of the office building on fire, with flames coming from the first floor under the balcony and extending up to the second floor, said Bend Fire Battalion Chief Dave Howe.

Crews were able to knock down the fire and stop its spread within 15 minutes of arriving, Howe said.

“It’s pretty much a total loss,” said Shayne Olsen, owner of Bend Trend Homes. “It’s not something you want to wake up to, that’s for sure. It’s just a random act, and we’re the ones that got hit.”

Although all three businesses sustained damages, they were able to restore their data, which was stored online, in what is known as “the cloud.” All three businesses said they will be able to continue their work until the building is restored, which officials say will take four to six months.

Neighboring businesses got quite a scare, too.

“Of course it’s scary,” said Nancy Goin, who works at Dr. Mark Jensen’s dental office next door. “These buildings are right next to each other. We’ve got pine trees right in the middle of them. So we’re lucky it didn’t jump over to our building.”

Thursday afternoon, Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering said “the fire was found to be incendiary in nature, intentionally started inside Suite 111.”

Noell was taken into custody without incident and taken to St. Charles for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. He faces charges of second-degree arson, second-degree burglary, reckless burning and first-degree criminal mischief, Maniscalco said.

Noell has had nearly two dozen prior convictions, including his November 2013 arrest on charges of ID theft, second- and third-degree theft and fraudulent use of a credit card. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said Noel pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of ID theft and received a 20-day jail sentence.

The building was otherwise unoccupied at the time of the fire and no other injuries were reported, the lieutenant said. The building’s property manager, Northwest Key Property Management, contacted tenants about the blaze.

It’s the fourth major structure fire in the Bend area this week.

Kettering said the building, built in 2006, was not required by code to have a fire alarm or sprinkler system at the time it was built. But she said if there had been sprinklers, “damage would likely have been confined to just a single suite, rather than all three tenants.”

“Additionally, a fire alarm system would have provided the earliest possible notification of the fire, dispatching fire crews while the fire was still relatively small in size.”

Actually, she said, current code also would not have required either safety feature.

“Code only requires office buildings to be equipped with an alarm system if they have 500 occupants or more or the occupant load is more than 100 on an upper floor or basement level,” she told NewsChannel 21. “Or it contains an ambulatory health care facility.”

“None of those applied here, it’s only a 6,000-square-foot building, which means they have a maximum occupant load of 60 for the entire building,” Kettering said.

Olsen said it could have been worse.

“A building is just a building,” he said. “We just build a new one. It is what it is. I’m just thankful that nobody got hurt.”

Anyone with information about the fire was asked to contact Bend police at (541) 693-6911.

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