Barbecue ashes put in a plastic garbage can sparked a fire that heavily damaged one Eagle Crest home and spread to another after a propane tank explosion, investigators said Wednesday.
The fire in the Eagle Ridge subdivision of Eagle Crest west of Redmond late Tuesday afternoon, triggering a major call-out of firefighters.
But despite what bystanders said were multiple explosions, there were no injuries, and less damage to the second home, as defensible space kept it from being even worse, investigators said.
Crews were called around 4:30 p.m. to the fire at 10097 Juniper Glen Circle, which spread about 50 feet to a home at 10271 Sundance Ridge Loop, said Redmond Fire Marshal Traci Cooper.
She said responding fire crews could see flames all the way from the Redmond High School area -- and the closer they got, the bigger the flames.
The homeowner was home when the blaze occurred and told investigators he'd heard a strange noise and found the fire when he tried to determine what it is.
A propane tank near the home “bleved,” Cooper said, an acronym for "boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion." Neighbors said after the tank exploded, it sent fire toward the neighbor’s home.
Neighbors also home at the time quickly began gathering garden hoses to try to put the fire out. Fire crews arrived to find the two homes and several juniper trees ablaze.
A Redmond fire investigation team determined the blaze was caused by charcoal briquette ashes that were disposed of earlier in the afternoon, Cooper said. They were placed in a plastic garbage can near the garage.
Cooper said Redmond Fire and Rescue wants to remind anyone disposing of ashes to place them in a metal container, away from anything that can burn. The ashes then need to be thoroughly soaked with water prior to disposal, she said.
Cooper also credited the relatively minimal fire damage to the second home to the fact a defensible space had been cleared of fuel around both homes.
“Had the work not been done, we would have seen a different outcome to the fire today,” she said.
A regional structural task force was called up for a brief period as winds threatened to spread the flames beyond the two homes.
The area was rocked by several explosions, including the propane tank. Others may have involved a vehicle in the garage that burned.
The American Red Cross stepped in to assist the residents with food, clothing and lodging.
Other fire agencies that provided mutual aid included Bend, Crooked River Ranch, Sisters-Camp Sherman, Black Butte Ranch, Cloverdale, the BLM, Oregon Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service. Deschutes County sheriff's deputies and Oregon State Police also assisted at the scene.
Meanwhile, on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, two lightning-sparked fires that broke out in recent days are 90 percent contained, officials said Wednesday.
The Bear Slide Fire five miles north-northeast of Warm Springs burned nearly 1,700 acres, while the Kah-Nee-Ta Fire burning two miles east of the resort of that name burned 115 acres.
The Eagle Crest fire was one of several that broke out around the same time late Tuesday evening as the region also dealt with thick smoke from the Pole Creek Fire.
Two new blazes were reported in the La Pine area, one on the west side of the Little Deschutes River that apparently was a "sleeper" or "holdover" fire sparked by last Friday night's lightning storm. it was kept to 1/10 of an acre, near a residential area.
Along with a mutual-aid assist on the Eagle Ridge fire, a fire possibly related to smoking was quickly doused by homeowners in the Newberry Estates subdivision, north of La Pine.
Fire dispatchers said the dense smoke also has at times challenged fire lookouts' range of visibility. Reconnaissance flights also are being done to watch for new starts, with weather expected to remain warm and dry heading into the weekend -- prompting more reminders to be very careful with fire.