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Suspect in 2 downtown Bend fires held in custody

By Joe Burns
Published On: Aug 01 2013 11:21:55 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 01 2013 11:22:47 PM CDT

Two house fires within a half block of each other in downtown Bend on Wednesday. There's a person of interest in custody but not arrested apparently.

BEND, Ore. -

The suspect who police believe set two houses on fire in downtown Bend Wednesday is undergoing mental health evaluation at St. Charles-Bend.

Police say 38-year-old Sarah Garner could be facing several charges, including arson, reckless endangerment and reckless burning.

But for now, she remains under doctors' supervision.

"There was police over here -- I was able to look through the trees just to see the fire fully engulfed the house," Sam Newman, the tour guide for Bend Electric Bikes, said Thursday.

Bend Electric Bikes on Hill Street is close to where the fires were set.

"It was billowing everywhere -- black flames, pretty scary," Newman said.

What Newman found was not just one fire, but two.

"It was really quick," Newman said. "It happened almost as quick as this one, about thirty minutes later."

Police believe Garner set the two fires, the second at her own four-plex unit, in just a one-hour span and blocks apart from each other in northwest Bend.

"This was a really serious situation," said Bend police Lt. Chris Carney. "A lot of people could have been hurt, and people weren't in the homes."

Over the past three years in Deschutes County, Garner has been arrested twice for assault and has two DUIIs on her record.

Neighbors said Garner told them strange things to them, like she has worked for the FBI and had protected the president.

"When we are on scene and somebody makes any types of comment that will give us concern for mental health, we are not the experts in that field," Carney said. "We would decide we should have the experts evaluate this person."

The hospital will decide if she's okay to be released back into police custody, then to jail.

"It doesn't mean someone's insane," Carney said. "It doesn't mean they have really big mental health issues. It just means we have concerns, and since we aren't the experts in that field, we want them to make the decisions and see how they can help somebody."

While police say Garner is the sole person believed responsible for these fires, they're still investigating.

Call Bend police at (541) 322-2960 if you have any information.

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