One person died and four others were injured in a single-vehicle accident June 21, on U.S. Highway 26, east of Madras, near milepost 11. The crash caused the vehicle to burst into flames, and also sparked an 11-acre wildfire.
According to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the accident was reported at 4:57 p.m., on the highway, between Ramms Road and Laurel Lane. Undersheriff Marc Heckathorn, the first on the scene, reported that the vehicle was fully involved upon his arrival, with four passengers out of the vehicle, but the driver still inside.
Oregon State Police, which responded and investigated the accident, reported that the driver of a Chevrolet Suburban, Michael Dennis Roach, 68, of Dallas, was headed toward Madras when, for an unknown reason, he left the roadway and struck a tree, causing the vehicle to catch fire.
An eastbound motorist who came upon the crash almost immediately was able to assist an adult female passenger, Tara Rae Redfern, and three children, from 2-10 years old, out of the vehicle. Redfern was transported by AirLink to St. Charles Bend for treatment of nonlife-threatening injuries. Roach died at the scene from his injuries.
The three children were transported by Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services to St. Charles Madras for treatment.
The Jefferson County Fire Department also responded to the report of the crash, which was just outside the department's district, as mutual aid for JCEMS, according to Tom Jaca, who arrived at the scene in a rescue unit with three other personnel.
"The wildland fire was actually a result of the motor vehicle crash, the vehicle catching on fire and extending into the wildland," he said, noting that the fire ended up burning 11.4 acres of Crooked River National Grassland, between Ramms Road and Laurel Lane, on the west side of the highway.
"The vehicle left the roadway and went through a fence onto Grassland property; the car hit a tree and came to rest," said Jaca.
Two of the fire department's wildland engines and a water tender, with a total of nine personnel responded to the fire as mutual aid on the National Grassland. "It did not spread as fast as we were expecting; the crews got on it and got it stopped," said Jaca. "The forward progress had been mostly stopped by the time the government engines got there."
Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch sent out two Bureau of Land Management engines, with 10 personnel, who mopped up the fire that evening and the next day. Firefighters were on the fire until 9:12 p.m.
In addition to assistance from JCSO, JCFD, Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch and JCEMS, Oregon State Police was assisted by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Jefferson County medical examiner.