BEND, OR -- Two Bend men face criminal charges in connection with the Fourth of July brush fire on Pilot Butte. Police say witnesses heard fireworks about a minute before the fire started. At least one resident from a nearby apartment complex even took pictures of two vehicles seen leaving the state park trailhead.
Brush Fire Forces Evacuations Near Pilot Butte
Bend Police Lt. Clint Burleigh says that help from the public led investigators to two suspects, "We were able to make an arrest of Brandon Hastings, and then we were able to arrest Alan Stout." Officers arrested 38-year-old Hastings (left) in Redmond, Wednesday night; 29-year-old Stout was taken into custody Thursday morning.
"We believe the fire was caused by a mortar type firework being lit off," Burleigh tells KBND News, "We were really concerned about losing that apartment complex by the Butte, so that's what caused us to evacuate it." The firework caused 10 acres to burn on the butte, and reached Hwy 20 before it was stopped by firefighters from multiple agencies. The two men are charged with Criminal Mischief, Reckless Burning and violating their probation.
Burleigh says the suspects may not have realized just how quickly the fire would spread, "What this shows is that when we have a really dry and warm climate like we do here in Bend, just legal fireworks need to be lit off and used in a very, very safe manner. And then, when you add the aerial fireworks that are illegal, it gives another layer of danger to the community." He adds, "The Butte's going to catch fire during the main fireworks, that happens 98% of the time, but having a fire this big, I mean, this is rare."
Hastings and Stout are scheduled to be arraigned Friday afternoon.