BEND, OR -- Fire investigators say a faulty catalytic converter from a passing car is responsible for a string of small fires in northeast Bend, Thursday morning. Bend Fire Battalion Chief Dave Howe says crews arrived just before 8:30 a.m., within seven minutes of getting dispatched. "One crew arrived first and said it was a single fire. Then, he was told by police officers that there were plenty of other fires down the street. So, he called for more resources and we ended up with 10 small fires that extended for 2 to 300 yards up Neff Road, right in the front of Pilot Butte Middle School."
Howe tells KBND News the driver is likely unaware they were starting fires as they drove along. He says police are looking for the person, to make sure they know they need to get the car serviced before it causes any more fires. "Every now and again a catalytic converter, especially in an older vehicle that’s over 15-years-old, will break up and they will come out and work their way out of the exhaust system. They’re about 1600 degrees Fahrenheit, so when they land on dry grass it’s going to burn, if we have the extreme conditions that we happen to have right now."
Neighbors reported the fires immediately, and used their own garden hoses to douse the flames until firefighters arrived. Damage was limited to grass and nearby fences. Howe says it could've been much worse, had the incident occurred later in the day. "Because it’s much dryer in the afternoon, it’s a lot hotter, maybe a little bit of a breeze. So, we lucked out on this one. We actually had 10 fires – 10 ignitions – but we were actually able to get on top of them really quickly."