Bend police said Tuesday they have identified a 16-year-old Bend boy as a suspect in a weekend incident of fire hydrant vandalism that sent thousands of gallons of water pouring down a southwest Bend street, damaging three nearby properties.
The teen has not yet been arrested, but police will forward the information to the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office and also to county juvenile authorities for consideration of criminal mischief charges, said Lt. Nick Parker.
The front cap on a fire hydrant was opened in southwest Bend early Sunday, sending thousands of gallons of water flooding down the street and into at least two homes, causing significant damage, police said.
Deschutes County 911 dispatchers got a call around 1 a.m. reporting a fire hydrant had been found with an open valve flooding the street at the corner of Wild Rapids Drive and Mt. Bachelor Village Drive, said police Sgt. Dan Ritchie.
Rick May of Patrol Services Inc., the private security firm that patrols Mt. Bachelor Village, said he came upon the open fire hydrant and called dispatchers.
Bend Fire and Public Works crews responded and shut the hydrant off, Ritchie said.
About 20 minutes later, it was reported that at least two homes -- one occupied, the other vacant -- had been flooded due to the fire hydrant vandalism.
The damage to the occupied home included several inches of standing water, and mud and debris were forced into the interior, Ritchie said. The estimated cost of damage was not yet tallied but expected to be in the thousands of dollars, he added.
Police have identified three properties affected by the flood waters early Sunday, Parker said, adding that damage estimates were still being compiled.
Bend Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki also said Tuesday that a second fire hydrant had been opened early Sunday, shortly after the southwest Bend incident, this one in the area of SE 27th Street and Bear Creek Road.
Parker said he had no information on whether the teen might have been involved in that case of vandalism or not.
On Sunday, Barry Geigle, who recently moved to Bend from Portland, said he was thankful the damage to their home wasn't more significant.
"It could have been a lot worse, though," Geigle said. "The firefighters had just come from a house fire, so they did a good job putting that in perspective for us. We're just happy everything turned out okay, and it's just going to take a day to clean up."
"Whatever they did, they did," he added. "We forgive them, but I hope they don't do it again."
Anyone with information was asked to contact police through the 911 non-emergency number, (541) 693-6911.
Bend Fire Battalion Chief Dave Howe said the water had flowed for an unknown amount of time before being discovered, but "it's got to be a lot of water" to cause that much damage downhill to homes.
While it's not extremely difficult to open a hydrant with the proper tools, Howe noted that "it's basically water we are paying for that somebody let go down the street -- it's not their water, it's our water."
But unlike some fires in which it can be very hard to find the perpetrator, a vandal opening a fire hydrant is doing so out in the open, Howe said, adding that he hopes members of the public who saw anything unusual in the area will contact police.
In response to the incidents involving the illegal tampering with fire hydrants in Bend, the Bend Fire Department offered up these do’s and don’ts Tuesdsy for fire hydrants:
Fire hydrants are the vital tap into the areas water source that fire fighters need to put out fires. They are spread throughout town to allow quick access to water when it is needed. These appliances hold back the thousands of gallons of minute of water that run under our city. When opened, hydrants can provide anywhere from 500 to 3,500 gallons every minute! But if not controlled, an open fire hydrant can cause great damage to property.
The DO’s for fire hydrants:
- Leave them be. They should only be used by emergency personnel. There are temporary accesses permitted by the water purveyors that allow contractors to access water off hydrants for construction work. Those connections are done in a way to ensure the hydrant is still accessible in the event of a fire.
- Keep them clear. Keep vegetation from growing over hydrants and keep snow shoveled away during the winter. Keep at least 3 feet clear all around the fire hydrants. If the hydrant is along the side walk in front of your house, it’s your responsibility to keep it clear year round per city ordinance.
- Report suspicious activity. If you see any illegal activity (tampering with them or a car has damaged one) please call the non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911.
- Report damage. You can contact the local water purveyor (there are 5 in the Bend area, including the City of Bend) if you notice any problems with the hydrant, including leaks, damage, etc. If you don’t know what water purveyor to call, call your local fire department to help determining who to call.
The DON’Ts for fire hydrants:
- Don’t park in front of a fire hydrant. 10 feet should be left on each side of a hydrant along a street to allow clear access at all times. Delay in getting access to a hydrant can delay the fire department in getting water on a fire.
- Don’t tamper with them. Hydrants are emergency use only. Do not attempt to open any of the ports or valves.
- Don’t paint them. Hydrants are the property of the water purveyor. If you find one that needs painting, call the purveyor. They are colored red to make them quick to find by fire crews during an emergency.
Help the fire department keep these vital firefighting tools available for use at all times.