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Passing train sparks fire in northern Bend on hot, windy afternoon, prompting reminder to property owners

'Now is the time to look at your property and prepare for wildfire season,' fire official says

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A wet spring followed by hot summer temperatures can make a fire like one that broke out Monday afternoon near the BNSF Railway tracks in northern Bend spread fast, even if the tall grass is green. Fortunately, crews got a quick handle on the blaze, apparently sparked by a passing train.

Bend Fire & Rescue was dispatched around 1:25 p.m. to a small (but quite visible due to its location) outside fire in the area of Robal Lane and Nels Anderson Road, near the BNSF Railway tracks, Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering said.

While crews were en route, others called to report the brush fire was rapidly growing on the east side of the railroad tracks, so the response was upgraded – and then again, to a structural response, when there was word a shed was involved, Kettering said.

They arrived to find the fast-growing brush fire at a property in the 20500 block of Raymond Court. The residents had evacuated, along with their two cats, and neighbors were prepared to evacuate, as the residents and neighbors tried to fight the fire with a garden hose.

Fire crews quickly knocked down the flames and stayed on scene for about 90 minutes to mop up and ensure no spot fires broke out, Kettering said.

Bend Fire was assisted at the scene by Bend Police, the U.S. Forest Service and BNSF. The damage was limited to grass, brush, an older shed and some belongings that were outside, at an estimated damage of $500.

An investigation determined a train had passed through the area about a half-hour earlier, Kettering said, and sparks from it had ignited tall grass and brush beside the tracks.

“Fortunately, many of the fuels still have a high moisture content, due to spring rains,” Kettering said in a news release Monday evening. “Had this been 3-4 weeks further into fire season, there may have been a far different outcome, with a fire more intense and fast-moving fire.”

Kettering says despite this fire's cause, it's a good time to get that grass and brush cut down, to reduce the risk of quick spread.

 "Now is the time to look at your property, and prepare for wildfire season," she wrote. "Cut tall grass, thin and remove excessive or dead brush, and limb up trees on your property. If you live within the boundaries of Bend Fire & Rescue, or Deschutes Rural Fire Protection District #2, we offer free consultations. Just call (541) 322-6386 to schedule an appointment. " 

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