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Accidents and Crashes

Hwy. 97 driver swerves to avoid deer, crashes, sparks brush fire, power outage

Highway 97 crash brushfire ODOT Amanda Cook 628
ODOT TripCheck; Amanda Cook
ODOT TripCheck camera caught smoke from crash-sparked brushfire on Bend's south end Sunday morning; SUV later engulfed by flames

Three occupants out of SUV before it's engulfed

(Update: Adding video, Kettering comments on dry conditions)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A driver who swerved to avoid a deer crossing U.S. Highway 97 in southern Bend crashed and sparked a brushfire Sunday morning that closed the highway for a brief time and cut power to about 2,400 Pacific Power customers .

The SUV ran off the highway shortly after 11:30 a.m. near milepost 143, at Highway 97 and Ponderosa Street.

Within minutes came reports of one or more trees and brush on fire, and ODOT TripCheck's camera pointing south from Rocking Horse road showed smoke billowing across the highway, which was soon closed southbound and then in both directions.

The SUV's three occupants were out of the vehicle and being checked by medics with no major injuries. It later became fully engulfed, spreading to adjacent trees and brush, witnesses and officials said.

Bend Fire & Rescue Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering confirmed the driver said she had swerved to avoid a deer crossing the highway and ran off the road.

Kettering said an investigation determined the 2001 Toyota 4Runner got stuck after it left the road, and efforts to remove it led to vegetation and pine needles coming in contact with the SUV's hot exhaust components and ignited the fire.

Bend Fire crews quickly were on scene to encircle the reported quarter-acre fire amid winds reaching 20 mph, but an official said there was damage to power equipment and utility poles.

Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt said crews turned off power in the immediate area, affecting about 2,350 customers, as fire crews worked in the area, but had it restored before 2 p.m. Track outages at their Oregon map.

Northbound lanes reopened shortly after the fire was knocked down, by around noon, with a southbound lane following minutes later; one remained closed for a while longer due to firefighter and utility work. Follow traffic updates at our TripCheck page.

"Even though today's weather is cooler, you can sill see things are very, very dry, and we've got some wind today," Kettering told NewsChannel 21 at the scene.

"As we head into the Fourth of July holiday week, fire danger is very high, and people need to be very careful with fire," she added.

Kettering said Oregon Department of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service crews were called in to help fight the blaze in windy conditions and dense vegetation. ODOT, Deschutes County sheriff's deputies and Oregon State Police also provided assistance.

Bend / Central Oregon / Deschutes County / Fire / Fire Alert / News / Top Stories

Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.



    1. Got you covered JJ….
      Never swerve to miss a deer more than your lane of travel allows….braking is much safer and productive. It is way better to hit the deer than another car next to you, hit an oncoming vehicle (not in this case as the road was divided), or worst case scenario careen off the road into a tree/rock or even a roll over crash injuring yourself or passengers. Shoot, you can even salvage and eat the deer legally now days to help cover your insurance deductible.

        1. It is. That’s why it’s important for drivers to contemplate scenarios like this before they arise…
          kind of like not braking hard on ice if sliding.
          I had a friend some years ago who wound up in the hospital (briefly) when she hit a tree trying to avoid a bunny.

            1. Absolutely. Back when I was still driving truck, I did that a lot…
              Several years ago I was coming up the Santiam pass in my truck at Hogg rock,
              when an idiot in a westbound suv hit the rock barrier and lost control..
              He came over in my lane and I knew I had two options. I could hit him head on or swerve to the right, and go through the guardrail and end up way down in the canyon dead. I chose to take my chances with hitting the car because I knew what the outcome would be if I swerved…

              – The OSP officer told me, I’m really glad that you have a lot of experience driving because if a truck driver with little experience had been driving the truck, he would probably be down in the canyon investigating a fatality…
              I told the trooper I know what it looks like down in the canyon because I have hiked down there before, so it made my choice easier. I can tell you that it is a true test of nerves to willingly hit another vehicle head on.

        2. It is human nature for many and in many cases it makes the outcome much worse
          if a person does swerve, but not everyone can do it though. Most people freak and

          1. I have shied away from that term since the criticism arose here. We call them crashes. No guilt or lack of guilt/fault is implied by ‘accident,’ as crashes that are not intentional still fit that dictionary definition.

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