July 15--An arsonist opened an unlocked truck, splashed flammable liquid around the interior and set it on fire early Monday, bringing a streak of intentionally set blazes in the past week in west Medford to eight.
Medford Fire-Rescue responded to the fire, reported at 24 N. Orange St., at 2:26 a.m. Firefighters arrived to see the vehicle, an older model Ford truck, engulfed in flames. One fire engine was able to extinguish the blaze. The fire did not reach the Ford's engine, but the cab was destroyed. No one was injured.
"It's a little different than the other ones," Fire Marshal Greg Kleinberg said. "Doesn't mean that we're not ruling out any relationship."
The streak of arsons began between 4:30 and 6:30 a.m. July 9 at four alleyways in west Medford. Firefighters first responded to 320 N. Holly St. to find several hay bales burning near a fence. At 4:53 a.m., immediately after the hay fire was out, crews had to dash to nearby 440 N. Grape St. to put out a burning shed. A burning fence at 535 Pennsylvania Ave. was reported at 5:17 a.m., followed by another burning shed at 329 N. Holly St. at 6:38 a.m.
Flames scorched dry grass and part of a vacant home's exterior at 1704 W. Main St. at 6:15 p.m. that day.
On July 11, firefighters snuffed a pile of burning debris near 835 Bennett Ave. The next day, crews had to put out a small grass fire in an alley behind 1021 W. 10th St.
The cause of the West Main and West 10th Street fires remain undetermined, as there were other possible ignition sources in the area, but they are still considered suspicious, investigators said.
"It would be fair to say our radar is on all of them because they're in such a tight area," Kleinberg said.
Fire officials estimate total damage at just under $2,500. Arson sprees have happened before, Kleinberg said, but the intensity and rapidity of this one has fire and law enforcement officials on edge as the investigation continues.
"We have seen (arson) streaks before, and it's very concerning to us," said Sgt. Josh Reimer of Medford police. "It's been very minimal damage. You're not having homes burnt down or people injured, but that's luck. One of these fires could turn into a complete loss on a home."
Reimer declined to provide any specifics on the investigation, but said he is confident the streak will end with an arrest. Area residents are encouraged to keep an eye out and report any information or suspicious activity to Medford police Detective Tony Young at 541-774-2230.
IIn March, an Ashland man, Manoah Hall, 38, was arrested and charged with starting fires in five abandoned west Medford homes. Local and federal officials had been investigating 22 suspicious fires, mostly in southwest Medford, started between summer 2011 and the end of 2013. Hall remains in Jackson County Jail, awaiting a scheduled September trial.
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