Medford authorities investigate string of arson fires

Two or three suspected human-caused fires occurred in west Medford near Columbus

Two small fires started in a west Medford alley in a three-hour time span early Thursday morning have been classified as arsons, Medford police and fire officials report, adding to several suspicious fires in the area.

Medford Fire-Rescue first responded to a small fire at 12:27 a.m. in an alley in the 800 block of West Second Street, near its intersection with Columbus Avenue. Medford Fire-Rescue crews were able to quickly extinguish the fire, but it damaged some landscaping behind a home at 854 W. Second St., police said. Authorities found a cigarette lighter at the scene.

"There's nothing around that would have caused any type of accidental fire," said Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau. "It's definitely from a person."

Less than three hours later, at 3:04 a.m., police and firefighters responded to reports of a second fire in the same alley, about 200 feet away from the first one. This blaze was larger and had burned a grassy area and a nearby fence that separated the alley from two residences. Fire crews knocked down the second blaze before it spread to the homes. No one was hurt, officials said.

While on scene, police discovered evidence that another fire in the alley had burned a wooden fence. Neighbors told investigators they had extinguished the small fire during the day about two weeks before, Budreau said.

"It was a burned traffic cone, and also about 10 feet of fencing that was burned, and then all the dry grass below it," Budreau said.

Police have interviewed several neighbors about the fires. As of Thursday afternoon, no arrests had been made. Police also are investigating whether the burns are connected to vehicle fires that damaged parked cars on South Peach Street and Prune Street three weeks ago. Both of those fires were reported within hours of each other, as well.

"We do think it's going to be someone that perhaps lives in the area, or at least frequents that particular area," Budreau said. "I think they're going to continue until they get caught."

Anyone with information about the fires is asked to call Medford police Detective Bill Ford at 541-774-2230.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.


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