By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Authorities credit strong cooperation among local, state, and federal agencies in stopping Saturday’s Juniper Ridge Fire before any lives or homes were lost.
Hundreds of homes were evacuated and homeless people living near the fire were displaced.
More tents, cars and RVs sprang up along NE Hunnell Road on Saturday, occupied by people displaced by the Juniper Ridge fire east of Highway 97.
“I have a camp out there right now and thankfully my things are OK and my dog was fine,” said Charles “Chuck” Kobold.
Kobold was visiting a friend on Hunnell Road when the fire broke out.
He says he stayed away from his campsite on Juniper Ridge for a day and half to give fire crews room to operate.
“Most of them have gone back out there. It’s hard when you are homeless. Somebody flicks a cigarette butt out the window and you are on fire.”
Saturday was a busy day for firefighters. Bend crews had already extinguished an RV fire on Awbrey Butte that spread to surrounding vegetation when the the Juniper Ridge fire call came in.
“Having those platforms–those tankers and helicopters to drop retardant and water on the fire– really helped slow it down and allow crews to get around it with fire hoses and to control the spread of the fire,” said Darren Root, Bend Fire Battalion Training Chief. “Without that coordination, I feel the fire would have evolved to something even more devastating.”
Eleven agencies responded and unified under one command to fight the fire from the air, on the ground and to notify and evacuate hundreds of threatened properties.
“Once they identify the area that is going to be affected by the Level 3 ‘Go Now’ evacuation, they push out that alert to that specific geographic area,” said Sgt. William Bailey, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer. “Law enforcement follows up with door-to-door notifications to ensure everyone at that residence has received it and they are able to evacuate safely.”
The incident commander says Saturday’s fire was caused when a motorhome’s hot exhaust pipe came in contact with dry vegetation.
One possible benefit of the Juniper Ridge Fire: More than 1,300 people signed up to receive emergency notifications via the Deschutes Emergency Alert system.
The Emergency Alert System notifies people in specific areas that need to be ready to evacuate and informs them when it is time to evacuate.
Beyond evacuation information, Bailey said people need to follow the sheriff’s department’s social media feeds on Twitter and Facebook, or monitor local media outlets.