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Bend-area homeless camps have had 15 fires this year, Redmond area had six, one Tuesday that burned 2 trailers

Motor home fire N of Juniper Ridge Bend Fire 2-10
Bend Fire & Rescue
Smoking debris by motor home destroyed by fire in 'Dirt World' area Saturday morning
Motor home fire N of Juniper Ridge Bend Fire 2-10-2
Bend Fire & Rescue
Smoke continued to rise from items near motor home destroyed by fire in 'Dirt World' area Saturday morning

(Update: Adding video, comments by Bend Fire; Redmond has six similar fires, one Tuesday burned 2 vehicles)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – There have been 15 fires in Bend-area homeless camps since the start of the year, the most recent destroying a motor home Saturday morning north of Juniper Ridge, officials confirmed Tuesday. The Redmond area, meanwhile, has had six such blazes, the latest just Tuesday east of town.

Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang said Tuesday the real solution to this and related issues is clear, to him, if not that simple to achieve: "The way to eliminate that risk is to create pathways out of homelessness so that people will leave those encampments."

Officials are investigating the cause of a fire that destroyed a motor home Saturday morning in the area of homeless camps north of Juniper Ridge known as “Dirt World.”

"We have been working with our outreach groups, with different community partners who are working on preventing future fires," Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki said Tuesday.

Chang said there's one thing commissioners have in motion.

"The county has indicated that they're willing we are willing to expand up to $1.5 million of the American Rescue Plan funds. The governor's office has allocated another over $1 million, I think $1.1 million to potential projects."

Bend Deputy Fire Marshal Cindi Kettering said three of the 15 fires so far this year have involved travel trailers or motor homes, and one involved a passenger vehicle. 

Derlacki added, "Each agency, whether it be state, county or or city, has their own rules of what's allowable or not allowable. Before you have any firem check with your property on, whether you're renting a house or going camping."

The Redmond area has similar issues, with six fires since Jan. 1 involving the area’s homeless, Fire Marshal Tom Mooney said.

The sixth happened Tuesday morning, burning a fifth-wheel and a travel trailer on Deschutes County land east if Redmond and north of Highway 126 he said.

No occupants were inside at the time and no injuries were reported. Mooney said the “most likely cause was from an improperly installed wood-burning appliance.”

North of Bend, several people called in reports of a large smoke column around 9 a.m. Saturday off Highway 97 near milepost 131, Bend Fire Inspector/Investigator Jason Kamperman said.

Bend Fire sent an engine and support vehicle, while Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies also responded to find a motor home fully involved in a fire, he said.

Bend Fire units put out the blaze and began an investigation. According to Kamperman, a witness on scene said the motor home’s single occupant informed him of the fire but left the scene before first responders arrived.

The fire remains under investigation, Kamperman said in a news release Saturday evening.

It was the second such fire in the general area in two days. An unoccupied 24-foot travel trailer went up in flames Thursday morning on BLM property in the Juniper Ridge area, about 100 yards east of Highway 97, but was quickly extinguished by Bend Fire crews. The cause of that fire could not be determined.

There are fairly frequent fires, many in RVs or motor homes, at homeless camps, prompting concern by many, including nearby residents.

Kettering said, "In many cases, it is a heat source too close to combustibles.  We have also found improvised or altered heating appliances being used, which can by very unsafe from not only a fire perspective, but also poses a carbon monoxide risk."

Kamperman said, "Bend Fire would like to remind everyone to be extremely cautious when using any kind of open flames, in or outdoors."

" If open flame devices are being used always have them attended and well away from combustible materials, have working smoke alarms properly installed and never fall asleep with an open flame in use.  Before using open flame devices that are intended for cooking or heating, read and follow the manufacturers' guidelines and follow local codes that pertain to their use." 

Article Topic Follows: Fire

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