Residents and tourists alike are beating the heat this summer by hitting the many rivers and lakes that Central Oregon has to offer. While a river float is a great way to cool off this summer, it does come with potential hazards. The increased traffic on local rivers is why Bend Fire and Rescue holds swift water rescue trainings several times throughout the year beginning in early spring and continuing throughout the summer.
The 14-member rescue team specializes in class three, four and five whitewater, which include rapids and strong currents that make it more difficult for people to self-rescue. The team runs four to five practice sessions a year to prepare for any potential rescue situations.
Mike Baxter of Bend Fire Rescue said that whole summers have passed where no rescues are necessary but between Bend Fire and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s search and rescue team they’ve already performed between 3 and 5 assists across Central Oregon this year.
Just last week the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and Bend Fire Department pulled a 13-year-old boy to safety at Lava Island Falls after the teenager became stranded on a rocky island in the middle of the Deschutes River south of bend and was surrounded by class five whitewater rapids.
When initiating a rescue the team will begin with the lowest risk option for both the rescuer and the victim. So each year they practice several different rescue techniques. One technique, which was used to rescue the teenage last week, involves a tether system and a raft. Another, which was tested out during Tuesday’s training on Central Oregon Daily’s own Anyssa Bohanan, involves a 75 foot long rope and a member of the rescue team.
Anyssa can attest that should the worst happen and you do need rescuing, you’re in solid hands. However, the best way to stay safe and have a good time is to be prepared and be aware.
In the peak of summer Bend Fire and Rescue responds to far more than just calls to battle blazes. July has seen 41 heat records set across the United States with zero record minimums. The next two days in Central Oregon are also expected to be the hottest recorded this week, which means responding to more calls to those suffering from this summer’s high temperatures.
Jon Erickson of Bend Fire said he has responded to over a dozen heat related incidents in the past week, many of the calls are for those who are frequently exposed to the elements.
Even those who are relatively healthy have suffered in recent weeks during what’s being recorded as the fourth hottest year on record. Hundreds of wildfires have been triggered in Oregon alone, dozens have been killed across the western hemisphere, and the heat is expected to continue.
Erickson says the best way to avoid being affected by the heat is to simply stay inside but if you’re going to be outside, staying hydrated is your best bet to staying healthy.
Fourth of July festivities were put on hold late Wednesday afternoon after a fire broke out on the base of Pilot Butte in Bend. On Thursday Bend Police arrested two men accused of the starting the fire that burned ten acres and threatened nearby homes.
The two suspects are currently facing charges of criminal mischief in the first degree, reckless burning and possible arson charges related to the blaze.
Around 4:50 p.m. on Wednesday a small fire, allegedly sparked by fire works, quickly escalated into a full on inferno and fire crews were quickly called in to handle the blaze that was propelled through the grass by strong winds.
The fire prompted evacuations of two nearby apartment complexes and shut down Highway 20 in both directions. The fire also lead to a power outage that left roughly 27,000 Bend residents without power for hours.
On Wednesday night Highway 20 was reopened, power was back on and Bend’s fireworks show went on as planned. However, the Pilot Butte park access road and trail head will be closed for two days and firefighter continue to put out hot spots in order to avoid another fire from flaring up.
Bend Fire Celebrates the Life of One of Their Own
It was a sign of respect for one of their own as Bend Fire Department vehicles traveled down Highway 97, escorting the body of fellow firefighter Rhett Larsen, who died in a motorcycle accident on Saturday.
39-year-old Larsen was returning from Portland when a bear ran out in front of his motorcycle. Larsen collided with the bear and was thrown into on coming traffic. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan has more on the life and legacy of Larsen and how the community is already stepping up to help.
Officials Increase Security After Threat From ER Patient
There was an increase of security patrols at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend on Thursday due to a threat made about a month ago by a patient in the ER. St. Charles safety department and police interviewed the man who made the threat for March 8th. They did not believe the person posed any risks, but he does have a 60-day no trespass order.
However, with security and hospital staff on high alert, a staff member did report a suspicious package at a bus stop outside of the hospital. The box was checked out by security staff and turned out to be a thermometer for concrete that was being poured as part of an ongoing construction project.
There was also a small dumpster fire reported at the hospital on Thursday, but according to St. Charles staff, that was put out within about ten minutes. Bend Fire happened to be at the hospital for unrelated reasons, which allowed to respond within minutes.
Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan take a look at a proposed new fire station in Tumalo.
Local firefighters train for ice rescues, which they say could be more common with central Oregon’s unseasonably warm weather.
Seven people miraculously escaped a house fire on Awbrey Butte on Wednesday morning.
The family, which included two children, two adults and three adult guests visiting for the holidays, were able to exit the home unharmed. However, the family’s two dogs perished in the fire and the home itself was destroyed.
According to Dave Howe of Bend Fire & Rescue, when crews arrived early Wednesday morning the 3,000 square foot home was already completely engulfed in flames. Howe said the family did exactly what they were supposed to do, everyone left the home as soon as the smoke alarms went off, and that kept anyone from being injured in the blaze.
Unfortunately due to the intensity of the burn, firefighters have so far been unable to pinpoint the cause of the fire. Despite extra units from Redmond and Sunriver assisting in fighting the blaze the home was declared a loss and the fire even damaged neighboring homes.
Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan has more.
A strike team from Central Oregon is heading to Southern California, where local firefighters will help in the efforts to battle wildfires that have burned tens of thousands of acres, and are threatening thousands of homes.
Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan caught up with some of the Bend firefighters before they left on a mission that will keep them from being home for the holidays.