A fire destroyed a garage and two cars in the 2400 block of Lara Court in northeast Medford Monday morning, but firefighters stopped the blaze before it made its way into the house.
A renter who declined to give his name said he was making coffee just before 9 a.m. when he heard popping sounds from the garage. He went outside and saw smoke pouring out of the garage windows.
"Smoke was coming through the laundry door," he said.
He rushed back in the house to get his wife and son out and to call 911. No one was hurt.
Fire crews arrived within three minutes, Medford Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Jason Blount said. The garage was completely ablaze, as were a minivan and car inside. Four engines and about 20 firefighters responded to the call, which put up a towering column of smoke.
Dale Earls, a wildland firefighter who was driving by on nearby Cedar Links Drive, saw the column and followed the smoke to the home to make sure everyone was OK and to assist if needed, he said.
"It could (have been) an elderly couple," Earls said, adding he pulled up just as the rest of the home's occupants came out of the building.
Neighbor Brock Heaton said he was sleeping when he heard the crackling sounds of the flames. "It sounded like someone was walking on leaves," he said. "It was blazing. Both cars were on fire."
Fire crews knocked out the flames within 20 minutes, preventing it from spreading into the house. The home suffered some heat and smoke damage.
Blount credited the home's residents with getting out safely and keeping the garage doors closed, which helped slow the spread of the flames.
"They did a great job," Blount said. "What's important is a quick notification and getting the family out."
Crews believe a portable heater unit in the garage near flammable material caused the blaze.
"It was left on, and there were also other items plugged into that circuit," said Medford Fire Marshal Greg Kleinberg.
Kleinberg added owners of portable heaters should be careful using them, even though they have some safety features. They also should be plugged directly into a wall socket, not an extension cord because they sometimes can overheat. There also should be at least a 3-foot clearance between in-use units and any combustible material.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.