BEND, Ore. (AP) — A string of suspicious fires burned homes and churches early Wednesday in Bend, where police tracked footprints in the snow in search of suspects.
There were no injuries. Numerous streets at the south end of downtown and the adjacent Old Town neighborhood were closed for the cleanup and investigation, KTVZ reported.
The fires began shortly after 2 a.m., when smoke was spotted coming from Trinity Episcopal Church. As police and fire units arrived, another fire was reported at nearby Grace Bible Church.
Dispatchers soon received a report of a home engulfed in flames and fires in trash cans in an alley near the Episcopal church. A garage fire in the alley spread to an adjacent house.
Larry Medina, deputy chief of fire prevention, told KBND radio that five structures had been involved, including the two churches, with extensive damage to Trinity Episcopal Church, which was built in 1929 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Police said rocks had been thrown through windows of the church.
Two vehicles also burned.
Fire crews from as far away as La Pine and Redmond were called in, as well as others from the Sisters, Cloverdale, Black Butte Ranch and Sunriver fire departments. The firefighters relieved Bend crews and helped staff fire stations.
Fresh snow challenged fire crews. A Sisters fire captain said they had to drive close to 20 mph at times for safety reasons.
Pacific Power and Cascade Natural Gas crews were called in to help get lines shut off, and the Red Cross was called in to assist displaced residents.