Home News Local News La Grande graduate spots Bend fire from air
La Grande graduate spots Bend fire from air
In the middle of the night, Keaton Snow saw a fire burning near houses along the Deschutes River
A 2012 La Grande High School graduate with dreams of flying and fighting fires got a taste of both Wednesday night.
Keaton Snow said it was “right time, right place” luck that led to him becoming a hero in Bend.
Snow was out on a cross-country night flight with his instructor, Jay Bunning, early Thursday morning when he spotted a fire approaching homes on the ground.
“While I was flying I noticed an orange blaze in the middle of the city near the river,” he said.
As he got closer, he realized it was a fire along the slope of the Deschutes River that was gaining on a nearby neighborhood. Snow estimated the fire was within 50 yards of homes, but because the blaze was on a ridge, it couldn’t be seen from the ground.
“We got pretty low to wake people up,” Snow said. The pilot and instructor had no way to notify people other than hover, make noise and hope that people would wake up.
“While (Bunning) was calling 911, I was flying and circling,” Snow said. “It was approaching the houses really quickly.”
Fortunately, the pair found the fire just in time for fire crews to arrive.
“It was a close call,” Snow said, but no one was injured and no homes were damaged.
Snow was out flying as part of his helicopter pilot program at Leading Edge Aviation. He and Bunning were just fulfilling certification requirements.
“It was just out of the blue that we decided to go to this one spot,” Snow said. “We didn’t have to go toward the city, but we chose to.”
It usually takes about two years to complete the helicopter pilot certification program, Snow said, but he’s trying to do it in one and hopes to be finished by next summer. After that, he wants to fight fires and be an EMS pilot.
Snow’s dreams have never been too far from sight.
By the time he was 15, he already had 15 hours of flight instruction under his belt. And during his junior year of high school, he was invited to take a first responders class.
What started as a senior portfolio project turned into a career idea.
“I always wanted to do something exciting, a realistic job where it’s different every day,” Snow told the Observer in 2011.
That was when he first revived someone at the emergency room with CPR after joining the Rural Fire Protection District.
The excitement and reality of the Deschutes River fire last week likely will be enough to keep Snow striving toward a career that involves helping others.
Snow won’t call himself a hero, but he enjoyed hearing of the gratefulness of the Bend community.
“It was a pretty cool feeling,” he said.