NW Bend homeowners awaken to fire, sirens

String of suspicious fires damages cars, garages, church

Bend homeowners wake up to sirens, flames

BEND, Ore. - Police are not saying if they believe a string of fires set in downtown Bend early Wednesday morning are connected, but residents affected by the flames find it hard to think about anything besides arson. 

Police taped off seven different crime scenes Monday morning. Five of them were in the alley near St. Helens Place. That's where Matt Calanchini lives, and it was clear he'd had a long morning.

"I heard sirens and I figured it was a car crash," Calanchini said later Wednesday.

He went back to bed, not knowing how close the trouble really was.

"Shortly later, there was a big pounding on my door and a fireman telling me to get out," Calanchini recalled.

Someone apparently had set Calanchini's detached garage on fire. At the same time, fire crews were busy tackling blazes at two church buildings nearby. That forced Calanchini to grab a garden hose and take action to save his belongings.

"I have a new respect for how strong the smoke and fire was," said Calanchini. "I could barely stand at that doorway, and it doesn't even look that bad."

A fire crew from Sunriver finally got control of the blaze in Calanchini's garage. But not before the fire destroyed his neighbors motorcycle he was storing, and other possessions that can't be brought back.

"The most important thing being a box of letters from my mom over the past 20 years," said Calanchini. "She's an extraordinary writer, and that's how she communicates -- and that hurts the most."

John Dempsey lives just blocks away from Calanchini.

"It really looked like something out of the movies," said Dempsey, showing photos he took of the fires.

Dempsey got a bird's eye view of the destruction at the churches and Calanchini's garage.

"The entire sky was full of smoke, and there was a lot of backlighting too, so it really made it look eerie," said Dempsey.

By later Wednesday morning, the smoke had cleared. But from behind the police tape, it was hard to see the damage done. Two cars, two detached garages and a wood pile were all set ablaze. Police are searching for a suspect.

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