A fire in the bark dust that spread to a deck ignited a destructive fire that tore through two chalet-style homes at Eagle Crest Resort west of Redmond Sunday evening, fire investigators said Monday.
Firefighters kept watch for hot spots Monday as investigators looked into the cause of the fire that left behind $340,000 damage. Deputy Fire Marshal Traci Cooper said they had determined the fire began in the bark dust located around the exterior of one home and spread to the deck.
"Due to the extensive damage to the original area, investigators were unable to determine what initially ignited the bark dust," Cooper said late Monday.
Fire officials reported getting dozens of calls in recent months of small patches of burning bark dust at Eagle Crest, and that spontaneous combustion cannot be ruled out.
Cooper urged people who use bark dust in their landscaping to keep a separation between the bark dust and any combustible materials. She also said any ignition source should be removed and disposed of properly, including cigarettes.
The first, frightening alarm came around 7:40 p.m., when callers reported not one, but two homes were burning, at 8858 and 8868 Cliff Swallow Drive, west of Cline Falls Highway, Cooper said.
The first crews to arrive found both homes burning, along with several trees and vegetation around the homes, Cooper said. Crews checked both homes for anyone inside, and no one had been in either home when the fire broke out, she said, adding that there were no injuries.
Cooper said the fire had moved into the concealed spaces in the ceiling area of one home, requiring crews to cut several holes in the roof and gain access to the fire, slowing efforts to douse the flames in that home, the fire marshal said.
Along with more than a dozen Redmond firefighters, members of two task forces, both structural and wildland, were called in from several nearby communities to make sure the flames did not spark a brushfire and threaten nearby homes in the Ridge at Eagle Crest development, Cooper said. That included fire crews from Bend, Cloverdale, Sisters, La Pine, Sunriver and Bend.
The cause of the fire was under investigation. Cooper said, with losses estimated at $200,000 to the homes and $140,000 worth of contents. Crews remained on site through the night, she said, to make sure the fire didn?t rekindle in either home.
An American Red Cross team responded to the fire Sunday evening, assisting one displaced renter with a "comfort kit," food and clothing allowance.
The two-story, three-bedroom, two-bath rental homes, both built in 2000, are owned by Clinton and Sandra Sanford and Peter Boyse, of Silverton (8858) and John and Gayle Montgomery of Gates, Ore., according to Deschutes County property records. Both were valued at just over $200,000 last year.
Off-duty personnel were called back on duty throughout Deschutes County to handle the threat.
By 8:25 p.m., authorities on scene canceled units coming from La Pine, and the resort of Task Force 1 was released around 20 minutes later.
The fire was reported under control at 9:10 p.m., 90 minutes after it was reported.
Scott McKittrick, a renter of one of the homes, said he lost everything and that he was shaken up, still in disbelief about what had just happened.
"All I have for clothes is the shorts I have on, my shoes and the shirt on my back right now," McKittrick said.
McKittrick said he was coming home from a nice dinner with friends when he "saw smoke on the horizon, and thought maybe it was on the BLM land over here, behind us, maybe off to the other side of the golf course."
"And as I started to get closer, I realized that more than likely, it was one of the houses on my street," he said.
"The biggest thing that's going through my mind is that everything I value, that I've collected over the years, is gone," McKittrick added.
McKittrick said Monday he had been renting the property for eight months, but in a matter of five minutes, it was all gone.
"When you see it happening to your structure, it still doesn't sink in. You kind of get panicked at first, and the actual sinking in doesn't happen for some time," he said.
Still wearing Sunday night's clothes, McKittrick could only stare at the charred remains Monday -- thankful he's alive and grateful for the support of neighbors.
"There was people that I never met that were inviting me to stay at their house. There was all sorts of outstretching towards me in this event, and I can't say how grateful I am," McKittrick added.
Heather Kramer said Sunday night that she and Scott Parker, a Salem firefighter, were visiting and staying at a house fairly close to the ones that burned, "across a couple golf course holes."