▶️ Hear the pops from Bend garage fire that spread to 2 homes

A garage fire started by gas vapor reaching a propane heater, spread to two adjacent buildings in southeast Bend late Tuesday morning. Four different fire agencies attacked the fire.

The fire was reported around 11:35 a.m. at SE Centennial Street and SE Woodland Blvd.

A deputy fire marshal says the homeowners were working on a motorcycle in the garage when the fire started. They tried to use a fire extinguisher but were unable to put the fire out.

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The homeowners called 911 to report the fire and report that there was ammunition stored in the garage.

“I was in my kitchen and heard what I thought was gunshots,” neighbor Noelle Elliott said. “It was a lot of popping. Then I came out and saw black smoke.”

Bend Fire said there were reports of explosions, which were attributed to the ammunition, propane tanks, motorcycle tires and paint in the garage.

The fire spread from the garage to the home as well as to a duplex on the other side. Bend Fire said flames extended into the trees, sending flames 50-75 feet in the air and a dark column of smoke up. 

Several spot fires were extinguished on the east side of the railroad tracks. Bend Fire said BNSF stopped rail traffic for about an hour during the fire to prevent damage to trains and keep crews safe. 

Four people were safely evacuated. A total of nine people were displaced.

Three dogs in the home were also rescued.

Total loss is estimated at $350,000.

In addition to Bend Fire, resources from Redmond, Sisters, Sunriver and Alfalfa also responded.

▶️ Bend Ronald McDonald House gets new renovations

The Bend Ronald McDonald House off Neff Road received several renovations and a new addition to help families in need. 

Chief Development Director for the house, Lauren Olander, says the charity acts a “home away from home” for families who travel to receive medical care for their children.

“We provide lodging, meals, compassion and hospitality, support, laundry: anything a family needs. We want to be able to take care of that family. So the only thing they have to think about is taking care of their child,” Olander said.

Updates include new flooring, new paint, bathroom renovations, a brand new kitchen and an additional suite that is ADA accessible for those with disabilities. 

“If we have any families that need any special accommodation—a little extra space, or have a child in a wheelchair, or a parent in a wheelchair—we have all the accommodations here,”  Olander said.

Olander told us the original main structure and bones of the house were the only things left untouched because they represent the community that helped build the home.

“We had a mom that stayed with us. She would talk about how her  10 to 15 hour days at the hospital and all she heard all day were machines to help her child breathe, waiting to hear her child take their next breath,” Olander explained.

“She said she held her breath all day long when she was at the hospital, but at night, when she came back to the house and the front door closed behind her, she said that was the moment she could exhale.”

To stay at the Ronald McDonald House, a child must be 21 years old or younger and they must be receiving medical care at a hospital. Everything provided at the house is free from food to lodging, and families can stay for as long as they need to while their child receives medical care.

The Ronald McDonald House accepts donations from the community.

The front doors are also always open to those who would like to learn more about the charity, and what they can do to help said Olander.

▶️Bend man sentenced to life for murders of Angela Pastorino, Alfredo Hernandez

A Bend man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole in the deaths of two 18-year-olds in Southwest Bend last summer.

Wesley Abel Brady, 41, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of strangulation in the deaths of Angela Pastorino and Alfredo Hernandez.

“The defendant is subjected to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Judge Wells Ashby said.

The victims were found dead in a garage on Aug. 17, 2022. Bend Police say the three were doing housework before a physical altercation ensued, leading to the murders of the two teens. 

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“The defendant struck Mr. Hernandez multiple times. He identified specifically that there was a point where Mr. Hernandez was incapacitated. He was struck until, and I will quote the defendant, ‘he was done,'” Deschutes County Chief Deputy District Attorney Mary Anderson said.

The prosecution said the murder weapon was a piece of wood. Brady attacked Hernandez during an argument. Brady then strangled Pastorino after she tried to intervene.

“He did not want a trial in this case. He did not want to put the families through that. This is a tragedy, and I don’t think anybody would argue differently, defense attorney Lisa Valenta said.

Brady spoke to a full courtroom of grieving families and friends.

“I tried to paint a picture that put every bit of blame on me. I hope the families know that their children are in a better place,” brady said.

Judge Ashby addressed the court before adjourning. 

“If there was anything this court could do to relieve your suffering, it would do it. We all know the pain of losing someone. The manner of which these families lost their children is stunning,” Ashby said.

▶️ No more circling: Signs, new app to help you find downtown Bend parking

It’s no secret that finding parking in downtown Bend can be difficult. 

“Parking’s definitely hard. It makes us late to class all the time,” one Bendite said.

The City of Bend is looking to make that parking process just a bit easier. The city council on Wednesday approved a new system that will include a mobile app and signage to help drivers find an open spot.

“It actually gives you turn-by-turn guidance based on digital signage to find available parking quicker,” Bend Parking Services Division Manager Tobias Marx said.

Signage will be posted on major entry points into downtown that will show parking locations. The signs will have numbers indicating how many spaces are available in each area and numbers will update in real time.

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The signs will be posted at Lava Road, Franklin Avenue, and NW Greenwood Avenue. 

The mobile app will allow users to find spots ahead of time. Other features will include a navigation tool that will lead the user to their desired spot. It will also send a notification if the spot has been taken before the user arrives. The app is not required and Marx says it is a secondary aspect for the system.

“It is not our main focus,” Marx said. “Our main focus is really to install the parking guidance, the dynamic signage. It is proven that cities that installed that reduced their traffic and congestion in their downtown corridor by 30-40%, as a result of people not having to drive around, looking for spots anymore.”

Most seem excited about the idea.

“I can’t wait! That will be super helpful,” another Bendite said.

Some have concerns what the signage will do to the look of downtown. 

“When I originally heard about it, I didn’t like it,” Principal Broker for Cascade Sotheby’s & Compass Kristine Halverson said. “I think downtown is charming, I like the quaintness of it. So, addling more signs or anything, I don’t really want that to happen. But if it helps local businesses, if it helps people navigate a little bit better, then I lean more towards it.”

The city says you can expect to see these signs start to pop up by the end of March. It hopes to have the system completely launched by the summer. Installation will not disrupt traffic.

▶️ Running high: Local runner looks to break stigma of cannabis in athletics

A High Desert runner Stephen Snazuk is achieving a different kind of runners’ high.

“Cannabis for me gives me a lot of mental focus. Long ultra runs is a lot of mental focus. Maybe 10% endurance, 90% focus. Cannabis on the trail allows me to get into that mindset,” Snazuk said.

Running is a huge part of Snazuk’s life. He also has a passion for growing marijuana. It was only a matter of time before he paired the two together — a combination he says has enhanced his overall performance. 

“I think it helps with my performance overall,” Snazuk said. Whether it’s recovery; whether it’s running; whether it’s getting a workout down; whether it’s consuming food on the trail — nutrition. I think it has to do with everything.”

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Snazuk prefers to smoke his marijuana — a way of consumption that may have a negative impact on the lungs. 

“Sure, it might impact my lung capacity,” Snazuk said. “I’m not saying that smoke doesn’t have a negative effect on the insides, but the positive effects definitely outweigh the negatives for me.”

While Snazuk focuses his sights on his upcoming races, he’s tacking on another goal this year to break the stigma of weed in athletics.

“Bend is a mecca for drinking. They promote the Bend Beer Chase left and right. I’m not saying I don’t promote it. I run it every year and I love it. But it is ironic they promote beer and drinking and running around town — basically public intoxication. But there’s no Runner’s High 5K or anything like that,” Snazuk said.

If running high is for you, Snzauk is even considering a cannabis runner’s club. 

“It might be fun. A cannabis running club. Once a week, meet at a doghnut shop maybe,” Snazuk said.

▶️Paid Leave Oregon updates website, includes ‘escape’ tool for abuse survivors

Paid Leave Oregon, the new state program that helps employees get more hours of paid time off, has already made some changes. Specifically, five new features were updated on the program’s website —  including a tool that helps domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors. 

It’s an escape button.

“It’s usually on the top right hand side of websites that are affiliated with domestic violence survivors to seek help,” assistant executive director for Saving Grace Trish Meyer said. “It’s a really important tool because, for many survivors, it’s the critical and most dangerous time for them to be accessing resources.” 

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The button is aimed at domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors. If they click it, it quickly erases any trace that they were even logged onto the web page.

“It allows them to push the exit button. It takes them to a generic page, like a Google search page, and it erases the browser history,” Director of Paid leave Oregon Karen Humelbaugh said. “If someone is looking over them or see what they’re doing, they’re able to access that ‘leave type’ for us, but also escape in the moment if they need to.”


Paid Leave Oregon provides three “leave types” on its website: medical leave, family leave and safe leave.

For anyone who may be in a dangerous situation, the user would navigate to the “safe leave” tab on the website, find the information they need to notify their employer and click on the red exit button in the top right hand corner. The button navigates the user to a whole new page. 

So why would this website be a place that abuse survivors might go to? Meyer says the Paid Leave Oregon is an important process for survivors to escape their situation.

“For many, in some years past, survivors who are trying to flee their situation and needing to take time away from work, may have been terminated for that reason. Now there is more protection for survivors,” Meyer said.

Meyer says, for survivors who are trying to leave their situation, it is imperative to keep their cybersecurity in mind, as it is common for abusers to scour devices trying to track their movements and intentions.

▶️ Redmond thespian troupe a big winner at Oregon competition

The lights are shining bright on local thespians.

Troupe 7715 of the Redmond Proficiency Academy won 42 medals of excellence during the annual Oregon Thespians Southern Regional Acting Competition. It’s the most won by any school in the region.

“Forty-two medals, which is crazy. I’m just so proud of everybody who competed in this,” senior Lydia Carter said.

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The medals are certainly a sweetener, but the real prize is the sense of belonging, inclusion and freedom of expression Troupe 7715 provides to every member.

“It allowed me to be a lot more comfortable with myself,” sophomore August Sharp said. “Last year specifically, I went the whole day without talking to anyone. But now that I’ve met this group of people, I’ve really felt more comfortable being myself, and being loud, and just talking in general.”

Now the troupe looks ahead to their next big show. 

“We’re preparing for our show ‘Chicago’ that goes up March 10. It’s super exciting, we’re all really giddy about it,” Carter said.

The troupe says the show is currently sold out, but there’s always a possibility more tickets can become available.

The troupe’s performance of “Chicago” will happen multiple times throughout the week of March 10. To find tickets and more information on the show, you can go here.

▶️ Sisters man who launched NASA balloons casts doubt on China spy concerns

Steven Peterzen has been ballooning for more than 30 years. He’s launched balloons for different missions for NASA from Antarctica, helped build balloon programs for the Italian Space Agency, Norway, Spain, Morocco, Australia and New Zealand.

Now, he’s using his background in stratospheric ballooning to cast on nationwide concerns of a Chinese suspected spy balloon spotted in the skies over Montana.

“Very difficult, really, to make it stay at a particular altitude and make it come right over certain areas of the U.S.,” Peterzen said “And why would they choose the path that it’s going? That’s just the way the winds are blowing.”

RELATED: Why Pentagon says it didn’t down Chinese suspected spy balloon over Montana

Peterzen doubts that the balloon is a craft of espionage at all, theorizing that it is a rogue research balloon that its command center lost control of. It’s an occurrence that he says happens more than people think.

“It’s only at 60,000 feet, which is not very high. Our balloons are normally flying at 125,000-130,000 feet. If you’re going to spy on somebody, you probably want to be a bit higher,” Peterzen said.


The mysterious aircraft has gained nationwide coverage and responses from government officials. 

“China’s decision to fly a surveillance balloon over the continental United States is both unacceptable and irresponsible. That’s what this is about. It’s a violation of our sovereignty,” U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said.

Some congressional representatives have taken to Twitter, questioning and shaming the Biden administration for refusing to shoot the balloon down. 

Peterzen says it’s not that simple.

“What do we have that’s gonna shoot it down at 60,000 feet? Are you gonna have a self-destruct missile that’s gonna try to take it out? And hopefully the missile doesn’t land someplace where it shouldn’t. It’s just a balloon,” Peterzen said.


He says the balloon could have been researching several different things rather than being used for surveillance before command lost control of the balloon, from Earth observations to interstitial dust in the atmosphere. 

“Whoever was sitting where the launch site was —  they were the last person on the planet to go to their boss and say we ‘We cant control it. It’s headed to the U.S.’ They probably lost their job,” Peterzen said.


▶️ La Pine High graduation rate behind curve compared to district

Bend La-Pine School District, like many others across the state, reported an improvement in graduation rates for the 2021-22 school year last week. But within the district, there was an outlier.

Districtwide, the graduation rate was 83.5%. And most schools in the district came in at more than 87%.

But La Pine High School was behind the curve at a 59.2% graduation rate.

“This is a community crisis and a community conversation. I think I would love to see them driving the conversation to get the input from the community around what are the barriers that kids and families are facing,” parent Angela Groves said.

RELATED: 2022 Oregon graduation rates 2nd highest ever; Central OR exceeding state

It’s a rate the district says is unsatisfactory. 

“We are not pleased with the graduation rate for La Pine High School at this point,” executive director for Bend-La Pine high schools Katie Legace said. “Obviously, I know our community in La Pine feels the same way. Our teachers, our whole staff in La Pine and our community. So we’re gonna continue to work with those students and the staff in La Pine and support them in getting the graduation rates up.”


La Pine High School’s rates were flat from last year’s numbers, staying steady at 59%. But before that, the class of 2020 recorded a graduation rate of 76.7% — a more than 17% drop.

La Pine High School says struggles during the pandemic are a major reason for the drop.

“We had a number kids during the struggles of the last couple years shifted their focus in some regard to work and family,” La Pine High School principal Scott Olszewski said. “What that meant for some was a full disengagement from school, but for some it was partial engagement. So their engagement may be spotty at times.”

La Pine High School says it hopes its day programs will help students get back on track.

“If you look at our graduation rate from last year, you would see that we are nearly 20 points higher when the students have been in our CTE (Career and Technical Education) program,” Olszewski said. “If they’ve done four or more classes with a CTE program, their graduation rate was at 77.4%.” 

As for Groves, she just wishes the district would be more transparent about where they’re falling short.

“I think the first step is awareness and acknowledgment and transparency, and that’s a really basic date metric that we are evaluating across communities. Let’s own it,” Groves said.

La Pine High School says it has hired more teachers, added more funding and more infrastructure for those popular progams that, so far, seem to be keeping student more engaged.

La Pine High School says when the students in the class of 2022 were freshman, they were on track to reach a graduation rate of 75%. This freshman class from last year has a rate of 87%. 

School-Specific 4-year Cohort Graduation Rate for 2021-22

  • Bend Senior High: 88.2%
  • Bend Tech Academy at Marshall: 51.6%
  • La Pine High: 59.2%
  • Mountain View: 87%
  • Realms High: 94.9%
  • Summit: 95.8%


▶️ 4 alternatives for fish passage through Newport Dam presented

Four possible solutions for fish passage through the Newport Dam that forms Mirror Pond received public input Monday.

A fish ladder, a more “nature-like” fish passage and two variations of rock ramps were presented.

“I thought the consultant for the city did an excellent job of presenting four alternatives for fish passage, with the exception that I was expecting to see a number five in which removal of the entire dam was considered,” hydrologist for Max Depth Aquatics Joseph Eilers said.

RELATED: Changes to Mirror Pond depend on the future of Newport Dam

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The ultimate fate of the dam rests entirely in the hands of its owners, Pacific Power. Some questioned the utility company’s commitment to maintaining the dam. If Pacific Power backs out of ownership, the dam could be removed entirely.

PacificCorp could walk away from this in a minute, and what I suspect is holding back that discussion is the sediment that’s in Mirror Pond and who would have to pay for the removal of that if the dam goes,” Eilers said during the Q and A session of the meeting. 


Dr. Jerry Freilich, a now-retired career man with the National Parks Service, says he hopes those working on fish passage are careful before investing money into something where the dam going away could change the scenario.

“People from PacificCorp in this meeting today said ‘Oh yes, we’re putting in all this work. We’re invested in it.’ Well that’s fine for them to say that, but there’s no legal reason why they have to. They can change their mind tomorrow,” Freilich said.

Matt Chancellor with Pacific Power, which is owned by PacificCorp, says the company has no plans in giving up ownership of the dam. 

“Today we have no plans of divesting the Newport Avenue Hydro Facility. It’s a carbon-free facility so that’s a big plus for our community,” Chancellor said.

A follow-up meeting has not yet been scheduled, but one is expected to be held within the next four weeks.