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Fierce fire causes $900,000 damage to two homes south of downtown Bend

Third neighboring home has minor damage; residents escape, no injuries; cause undetermined

(Update: More details from fire official)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A fire heavily damaged two neighboring homes and caused minor damage to a third south of downtown Bend Friday afternoon, also spreading to a fence, trees and power lines before crews could stop it, an official said. Bond Street and others in the Old Town area were closed for hours while the firefighting work continued.

No injuries were reported from the fire, which was reported shortly after noon at a home in the 600 block of Northwest Florida Avenue, near Bond Street, Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering said.

Bend Fire & Rescue crews were just clearing at the time from an earlier fire that caused $30,000 damage to a two-story home on Northeast Shirley Court. Kettering said that fire primarily was confined to one room, with some smoke and water damage to the rest of the structure. Kettering said it was caused by a lighter in use that came in contact with curtains in a bedroom.

Crews arrived at the Florida Avenue location to find two neighboring homes on fire, along with two trees, fences and a nearby RV, with power lines also involved, she said. Flames towered above one tall tree, and in an area with numerous power and other aerial lines.

Kettering said it “put up a dark column of smoke visible from across town. When we got here, there were two homes on fire, with not a long of distance between them, and a fence was burning, as were trees and power lines.”

Fortunately, she added, “everybody made it out okay."

Kettering said crews quickly knocked down the fire using "master streams" that put a lot of water on it from a safe distance, due to the burning trees and overhead utility lines.

Total losses were estimated at $900,000, Kettering said later in a news release.

Investigators determined the fire began on the outside deck of a home on Florida Avenue, spreading to the siding and into the attic space, as well as the siding and attic of an adjacent home on Bond Street. Radiant heat caused minor damage to a third home, also on Bond Street.

"An exact cause could not be determined for the fire, but it was found to be accidental in nature," the fire official said.

The fire began on the exterior of a two-story long-term rental home, spreading inside and to a neighboring, older one-story vacation rental where four people were staying, also causing minor damage to a third home on the other side, along Bond Street, Kettering said. There was "very minor" damage to an older RV parked in front of the Florida Avenue house, she added.

NewsChannel 21 spoke to witnesses in a home next door who say they rushed out and tried to help.

Bend visitor Chelsea Johnson said, "When I get home, I'm just going to put everything I don't want lost into a bag, like a 'go bag,' just for emergencies. I couldn't believe how fast it was!"

“We’re still looking for the cause of the fire,” Kettering said late Friday afternoon, adding that investigators were able to narrow it down to the exterior of the property where it originated.

The American Red Cross was called in to assist the three residents of the long-term rental, while the four people staying at the short-term rental were being assisted by the rental company to find new lodging.

Florida Avenue closed between Bond and Staats streets as crews completed overhaul work, and Bond Street was closed until late afternoon.

Access was “a bit of a challenge” due to bystanders and vehicles, she added.

Later, in the news release, she elaborated:

"Bend Fire & Rescue would like to remind the community to please yield right of way to emergency vehicles whenever they approach from any direction using lights and/or siren. Move as close to the right hand side of the road as you safely can, and stop until the emergency vehicle has passed. 

"Also, remember that in case of a fire or other emergency, seconds count.  Please keep access to an emergency scene clear for responders so that we can get there quickly and safely to help. Stopping to look or take photographs or video can create congestion, which delays our response and may even lead to secondary incidents, such as traffic crashes.

" Your actions when an emergency happens are important," Kettering wrote. "Please help us keep our community safer for all."

Article Topic Follows: Fire

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Barney Lerten

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