Skip to Content
Fire Alert

Prineville-area couple lose home to fire that sparked evacuations, O’Neil Hwy. closure

(Update: adding video, new info, comments from homeowners, neighbor)

Two cats missing; 'I couldn't think - it was happening so fast'

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Two residents escaped unharmed, but lost everything when a fire destroyed their home on Northwest Deer Lane west of Prineville Tuesday afternoon and quickly spread to the nearby wildland, prompting an evacuation order for the area and closure of O'Neil Highway for a time, officials said.

"What do you do?" Murphy McKinney, one of the victims, said Wednesday. "I could not even think -- it was happening so fast."

McKinney and Luana Lotspeich, a couple for the past 12 years, have been living on Deer Lane since 2016. They built a life there.

Around 4 p.m. Tuesday, it was taken away -- all too fast.

"I keep hoping I'm going to wake up, and there it is," McKinney said of their home. "But that's not reality."

Murphy told NewsChannel 21 he and Lotspeich were in the living room when they heard an explosion.

"I looked outside, I see this big cloud of smoke, and I knew then there was a fire," Murphy said.

Crook County Sheriff's office Commander Michael Ryan said initial reports to first responders were about a brushfire, but they soon learned it was a structure fire, spreading rapidly and threatening homes.

Undersheriff James Savage told NewsChannel 21 the fire is believed to have started inside the home, which was destroyed. The cause appears to be electrical in nature, fueled by high winds and hot temperatures, but the official cause is still under investigation.

It took 20 firefighters about three hours to contain the fire, which burned about six acres in total, according to Crook County Fire & Rescue Division Chief Russ Deboodt.

Mutual aid was provided by the Oregon Department of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service. Other help came from sheriff's deputies, Prineville Police and Prineville Public Works.

O'Neil Highway had to be closed for some time. Other homes were threatened, but none were damaged.

Next-door neighbor Tom Garner's son, Duane, took a video on his phone after the flames had passed, saying: "Must have started praying right before it got to the house, because it just turned direction all of a sudden and went right around it."

All of neighbors were told to evacuate immediately, including Garner and his family.

Garner said, "My heart goes out to them, because they've lost everything. And yet, I am very grateful that our house was spared."

However, few of Murphy's and Lotspeich's belongings survived. Their car, truck, Murphy's music -- all gone. A few animals escaped the flames, but their two cats were still nowhere to be found.

Murphy said, "I'd rather lose everything -- the house, the cars -- and not lose my cats."

Even with tears rolling down his face, McKinney has not lost hope.

In the meantime, the American Red Cross has put up the couple at a Redmond motel for the next four days.

Also, folks from Oregon People's Rights have been dropping off donations. You can also contribute to the GoFundMe the group has set up for the couple.

Central Oregon / Crook County / Fire / Local News / News / Prineville / Top Stories
Author Profile Photo

Max Goldwasser

Max Goldwasser is a reporter and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Max here.



  1. I posted this comment yesterday…. “Any word on the explosion and fire out in Prineville around 4 this afternoon- a large black mushroom cloud just East of the Chamber of Commerce. Any news- or is Redmond and Doosh Kounty more important with all them Blue Demokrat Liberal Voters ?”… The following offensive and disgusting responses have gone undeleted or removed- I guess the Moderator finds some kind of humor in garbage like this… “Eric in Redmond… “Someone trying to chop down that lodge pole pine you call a family tree?” Yup- Yuck-Yuck- funny stuff there Eric- shame on the mod for this level of insensitivity… But hey- you criticize China Joe- or call it the C***A Virus- he’ll remove yer post in a heart beat ! That’s messed up folks- really messed up !

    1. Your story is tragic. We are all heartbroken to hear of your suffering at Barney’s hands. Hopefully, you’ll find the strength to carry on. You’ve been dealt a horrible blow and recovery will be difficult. Look to your friends, family and God, to help you through the trying days that await you.

Leave a Reply

Skip to content