Fiery wake-up call

Dog dies, but couple escape unharmed as much of Eagle Point house is destroyed in morning blaze
A smoldering cigarette emptied from an auto ashtray into the trash may have triggered a blaze early Monday that destroyed most of a large Eagle Point home that overlooks a golf course.Mail Tribune / Julia Moore

A smoldering cigarette dumped in a trash can may have triggered a blaze just after 1 a.m. Monday that destroyed most of a large Eagle Point home that overlooks the golf course.

A small dog died during the fire, but the couple who rented the 869 Arrowhead Trail house escaped unharmed, said Arlen Blenkush, battalion chief for Fire DistrictNo. 3.

"It appears, at this point, that it was the occupant who emptied an ashtray out of a car into a trash can," Blenkush said.

About a third of the roof was engulfed in flames, destroying a garage, and reducing a car and golf cart into twisted metal.

A smoke detector was still chirping inside the house at 869 Arrowhead Trail Monday afternoon as passers-by checked out the scene. Across the street, golfers scooted around in their carts in the sunshine.

Soot and debris from the fire littered the sidewalks, and the front door was knocked off its hinges. Most of the major damage was confined to the back side of the house, which had four colonial-style columns in the front.

"When we got there, the garage was fully involved and the fire had spread into the attic and onto the roof," Blenkush said. "It was free-burning and very hot, spreading across the roof and throughout the inside."

Neighbors still were recovering from being startled in the middle of the night in this upscale community.

"I woke up and wondered what the heck is going on," said Barbara Toner, a 66-year-old neighbor. "I looked out my back window and I could see flames going up."

Toner and another neighbor were warned by fire crews to evacuate their residences as the heat twisted and melted vinyl fencing around the property. The fire did not jump to any other houses.

Toner said she didn't know the people who rented the house.

Blenkush said the fire started in the garage, then spread into the kitchen and dining room, eventually climbing into the attic.

Even though about a third of the house was charred by the fire, Blenkush said the rest of the house had lots of smoke and water damage.

Based on the damage, Blenkush said he estimated the repairs could be in excess of $200,000.

"It may be that they have to tear the whole house down and rebuild it," he said.

Blenkush said he didn't have the names of the couple in the home; they went to a hotel for the rest of the night. Jackson County records show the owners of the house are John and Betty Ann Fraley of Eagle Point.

A fire investigator will return to the Arrowhead Trail house to verify that the blaze was started by a smoldering cigarette.

Blenkush said the call came in at 1:14 a.m. with the first unit on the scene at 1:23 a.m.

He said three engines from Fire District No. 3, plus an additional one called in from the Medford Fire Department were sent to the blaze. In addition to the four engines, 18 firefighters were at the scene, he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email dmann@mailtribune.com.


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