Kathy Mathison’s three curly-haired dogs were the first thing in the car Saturday night.

While she got them loaded up, her husband, James, got their important paperwork ready to go.

When they’d looked out the kitchen window a few minutes earlier, they’d seen thick black smoke rising from the north. It was the fire that would later close U.S. Highway 97 for hours and force the evacuation of the Mathisons and their neighbors in the Four Seasons Mobile Home Park, where they’ve lived together for six years.

The two spent the night at a family member’s house, and returned to their neighborhood Sunday morning. They found that the flames hadn’t quite gotten to their home, but that a nearby shed was charred and ash had damaged the home’s awning.

“That’s an absolute miracle right there,” Kathy Mathison said, pointing to a neighbor’s propane tank that had been charred on the outside but didn’t burn. “You never think this is going to happen to you.”

On Sunday, residents of the previously evacuated area returned to survey the damage that the Juniper Ridge Fire did to the area northeast of Cooley Road. The fire destroyed acres of cars in a wrecking yard and charred a few structures, but no homes were destroyed and no injuries were reported.

By Monday, crews had contained the spread of the fire to a 39-acre area, and were continuing to address hotspots and smoke inside the containment line. Community members can expect to see smoke for the next five to seven days, but Bend Fire & Rescue spokeswoman Trish Connolly said there aren’t concerns that the fire will spread.

Fire officials concluded Sunday afternoon that a Class A motor home caused the fire when it came in contact with grass or brush, according to a release from Bend Fire & Rescue.

B&R Auto Wrecking sustained heavy damage from the fire. Acres of vehicles were turned to skeletons, with windshields melted onto steering wheel frames and molten metal littering the ground in now-hardened pools.

“It’s pretty well charred up,” said Matt Sprauge, the store’s manager.

Sprauge learned about the fire around 4 p.m. Saturday. At that time, it wasn’t yet on the company’s property, but just north of it. Soon, though, the flames engulfed row upon row of cars, causing fire officials to warn surrounding residents to keep windows closed to avoid the smoke.

The cars smoldered all night — by Sunday, some parts were still smoking, and small fires flared up on the lot. Store leaders surveying the damage Sunday didn’t yet know how much of the inventory on their 18-acre lot had been lost to the fire.

A nearby employee’s home and the store’s buildings, just yards away from the rows of burnt-out cars, were saved, however, and no employees were caught in the fire.

“Inventory is replaceable,” said Matt Phillips, B&R’s northern regional manager. “It’s a setback, but it could be a lot worse.”

Now, Phillips says, the company is continuing to survey the damage and find a way to reopen.

With a large wood fence completely burned down, the Mathisons’ home looks directly onto the B&R lot. Charred trees nearby indicate that the flames stopped just before hitting the family’s property.

“I’m thinking we got the worst of it,” Kathy Mathison said of the mobile home park. Other properties had burned trees, but the couple’s shed and some belongings had been touched by the flames, and an air vent on the home was melted in.

James and Kathy Mathison, married for 47 years, had the help of many of their kids Sunday. Given the damage to their home’s ventilation system, they aren’t sure they’ll be able to stay in the home without serious repairs.

“I was up crying all night,” said Kristin Anderson, the Mathisons’ daughter. “It was scary.”

The family had been encouraging the two to move from the park for some time, according to Anderson.

“Looks like God might have made our minds up for us,” Kathy said.

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{child_related_content}{child_related_content_item}{child_related_content_style}Bio Box{/child_related_content_style}{child_related_content_title}Who gets notified and how?{/child_related_content_title}{child_related_content_content}

On Saturday, several mobile home parks near the Juniper Ridge Fire were ordered to evacuate by they Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.

The notification comes through the Deschutes Alert System, which is used for all kinds of emergencies in Deschutes County, as well as Crooked River Ranch and Camp Sherman.

The system calls all landlines within an impacted area, but it requires registration for cell phones to get notified.

You can register your cell phone for emergency alerts on the county’s website: www.deschutes.org/911/page/sign-deschutes-emergency-alerts.

The system requires you to specify and address, and you’ll only get notifications related to that address. Alerts include evacuations, natural disasters and missing or endangered children.

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Zack Demars reports for The Bulletin through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism.

(2) comments

B.B. Bendito

Lucy lu I think you hit the nail on the head. Why else would someone drive a class A motor home into grass on the east side of the tracks.

I’ve been hounding city councilman and Jon Skidmor for years to do something about the homeless sprawl in the northern 1000 acres of Juniper Ridge. There are around 100 camps or more with several people in each camp.

I can see why they need a home but the city needs to contain them to a smaller area of property rather than let them camp where ever they want. I live on the other side of Juniper Ridge from this fire. Every day I fear the worst. And now it’s happening.

The city needs to sell Juniper Ridge to private owners that will steward it properly.. and pay property taxes

LucyLu

Was this from one of the motor homes in the transient camp or did you refrain from reporting it due to political correctness?

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