'There's nothing left'

Homeowner rescues family from early morning fire, but one of his dogs dies
Jason Smith, 40, was able to get out his family and one of his dogs before an early-morning fire consumed his 1939 home on Upper Applegate Road. A second dog perished in the fire.Bob Pennell

RUCH — A brick chimney stack stood tall above blackened remains as Jason Smith walked through what used to be his living room, looking at piles of burned clothing and burned furniture.

"There's nothing left," he said.

Smith, 40, had awoken at 3 a.m. Tuesday to get ready for work when he noticed a glow coming from the living room of his home in the 12000 block of Upper Applegate Road. He thought his daughters were playing with flashlights, but soon saw flames from his front porch spreading to his living room.

Smith said he quickly woke his wife, three teenage daughters and two nieces, got them safely outside and called 911.

No one was injured, but Smith was unable to save one of two family dogs. He said he went back in the house to try to find the 1-year-old dog.

"My wife was screaming at me to get out," he said.

A propane tank from the barbecue on the front porch exploded in the front doorway. Smith escaped from a back window, but said his wife and children at first feared he was trapped inside.

Four engines, two water tenders and 14 firefighters from the Applegate and Jacksonville fire departments responded to the call. Crews arrived around 3:30 a.m. and had the fire contained within minutes. The Oregon Department of Forestry also responded to make sure the fire did not spread beyond the house.

Smith knew crews wouldn't be able to save his house, part of the 300-acre Bull Creek Ranch his family has owned since 1907.

"The roof was already collapsing," he said.

Fire officials believe the fire began in the attic and spread to the front porch area, according to a press release from the Applegate Fire Department.

"It seems like it was burning for a while before the homeowner noticed," said Chris Wolfard, Applegate fire operations chief. Officials will continue to investigate the cause and check the house periodically to make sure all hot spots are out.

Although most of Smith's belongings were destroyed, including a car, fire officials recovered a wedding ring Smith's wife left on a bedroom vanity.

Applegate fire Lt. TaiLese Goodnough said that after a 30-minute search, she and another firefighter found the ring and other jewelry buried under piles of burned debris. All the jewelry was in good condition.

Smith's mother, father and uncle all live on the property, which used to be called Stoney Acres Ranch. His grandfather built Smith's house in 1939, and Smith and his wife moved into it in 2007. Smith's logging company, Bull Creek Land & Cattle, also is on the property, but wasn't damaged in the fire.

"I'll continue to stay busy on a business level," Smith said, "but this will definitely slow me down a lot on a personal level."

He plans to build a new house once everything is cleaned up and settled. Until then, he and his family will stay at a hotel in Medford and his uncle's house. He said he feels lucky to have family around to help.

"I guess it's not the end of the world," he said.

A family friend is setting up an account for donations to the Smith family at Key Bank.

Reach University of Oregon reporting intern Josephine Woolington at 541-776-4368 or jwoolington@mailtribune.com

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