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Display freezer fire closes Bend’s Trader Joe’s for day of cleanup

Bend Trader Joe's closed fire 123
Bend Fire & Rescue
An early Saturday fire in a freezer at Trader Joe's in Bend prompted closure for cleanup
Bend Trader Joes freezer 123
Bend Fire & Rescue
Fire at Trader joe's early Saturday was confined to freezer, but refrigerant leak led to bigger cleanup

Losses estimated at $10,000; Bend Fire official praises workers' actions

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A fire early Saturday morning in a display freezer at Bend’s Trader Joe’s caused about $10,000 in losses and spread smoke and odors through the business, prompting the grocery store to close for a day for cleanup, an official said.

Bend Fire & Rescue crews were dispatched around 4:30 a.m. to the store on North Highway 97, Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering said.

Store employees beginning their work day had arrived to find light smoke and a strong odor throughout the store, Kettering said, so they immediately evacuated and called Deschutes County 911.

The first crews to arrive found a thick haze of smoke, with no obvious source, Kettering said. They eventually were able to trace the source to a commercial display freezer.

The fire had self-extinguished, she said, but there were still hazardous conditions due to the continued leak of flammable refrigerant.

Fire crews were able to shut down all systems, ventilate the building and turn the scene over to store staff and HVAC contractors, to begin repairs and cleanup, Kettering said.

The total loss was estimated at $10,000, due to a large quantity of grocery products that had to be discarded.

An investigation determined the fire was caused by electrical wiring that arced against copper refrigerant tubing, creating a hole and allowing the flammable refrigerant to escape, the fire official said.

While fire damage was limited to the one display freezer, smoke and odors were dispersed throughout the building. Kettering said Trader Joe’s was staying closed Saturday for cleanup and repairs but plans to reopen Sunday.

"Bend Fire & Rescue would like to commend the staff of Trader Joe's for their quick and correct actions in evacuating the building, moving to a safe area, and calling 911 immediately," Kettering said in a news release.

"Businesses are encouraged to have an emergency plan, and for all employees to receive training and opportunities to practice that plan.  Good planning ahead of time can result in a much better outcome when seconds count."

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Barney Lerten

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



  1. There’s a contradiction in this report. If the refrigerant is flammable how did the fire “self extinguish” when the refrigerant was released?

    1. We can ask, will either update with their response or pass it along.
      (UPDATE: Here’s How Cindy Kettering explains it: “Many people think flammable liquids and gases equal boom, but that’s not the case. Every flammable vapor has what are called flammability limits, a range at which, when mixed with air, they will combust if an ignition source is present. If there is not enough vapor, it is said to be too lean and will not burn. If there is too much vapor, it is too rich and will not burn. The best example I can give is with motor vehicles – they require fuel mixed in the correct ratio with air in order to run efficiently. Way back, that was achieved with a carburetor. ”

    2. Fire needs oxygen to keep burning and in a freezer there probably isn’t enough to keep it going especially when it has collected too much smoke. Plus it is pretty hard to catch frozen food on fire

      1. The compressor and wiring is external to the refrigerated compartment so I’d expect the supply of oxygen wouldn’t have been restricted very much.

    1. Ah, that would explain it. Thanks.

      The refrigerant would have then been propane (considered more environmentally safe if one discounts the toxins released from the occasional accidental fire). So it’s more of a situation where the fire simply ran out of fuel once the propane was combusted.

      1. Without knowing any details, that would be my guess. R-290 driven units only require about 50% of the charge of an equivalent R-134a unit, so it could burn out fairly quickly. It’s becoming pretty common to see new reach in coolers/freezers being built with it.

  2. To assume that only hipsters shop at TJs is an assumption. Curtain products offered/ sold there are reasonably priced. We shop for value, at a variety of stores including TjS..

    So why then if an individual shops there for items of value… does that give one the right to insult.

    I wonder, does it make a person puff up and feel BIGLY to insult another? Adolescent.

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