No holiday: Fourth of July keeps Bend firefighters busy

There's a lot happening, even before the fireworks

Fourth of July off to busy start

BEND, Ore. - People around the country were taking a day to celebrate our independence. But while many were enjoying some time off work Tuesday, the Bend Fire Department wasn’t.

"The Fourth of July is our busiest day of the year by far,” said Battalion Chief Dave Howe.

Fire and medical calls both spike on the holiday. The department invited NewsChannel 21 on a ride-along Tuesday with Fire Inspector Steve Stenkamp.

More calls started coming in as the ride progressed, leading up to a brushfire Stenkamp determined was human-caused.

“The fire danger, being at high risk right now, that's our concern," said Andy Hood, the battalion chief on scene. "And what you see behind me is an example of what can happen in a split second.”

Because of increased staffing for the holiday and a fast response time, the fire was quickly put out.

The call volume for Independence Day is consistently above the annual daily average. Firefighters said the day is never slow, even if it’s raining, but this year’s hot weather, after the wet and snowy winter, makes for a dangerous combination.

"The fuels have dried out really nicely, and all the precipitation there gave us a really nice crop of cheatgrass,” Stenkamp said. “And that cheatgrass, those fine fuels, is really what gets a fire started."

Outdoor events and alcohol also play a part in the call volume. Many people become intoxicated or dehydrated during the festivities.

As much as the fire department loves serving the community, firefighters say they’d rather not see you this Independence Day.

"Use some good judgment and have a good night, and hopefully you'll never have to see us," Stenkamp said. "You can just wave at us as we go by."

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