Investigators push ahead after latest in string of fires

Derek Zwagerman, Medford fire inspector, investigates a fire at a vacant home on Prune Street in Medford Thursday.Jamie Lusch

Suspected arsonists set fire to a vacant home in west Medford Wednesday evening, causing heavy damage to the garage area and additional smoke damage to the interior.

Fire officials responded to a fire at 7:41 p.m. Smoke was reported coming from the garage at 1914 Prune St. Crews from Medford Fire-Rescue and Jackson County Fire District No. 3 extinguished the fire in about 12 minutes.

How to help

Anyone with information about the arsons should call the Medford police detective division at 541-774-2230.

Three engines and a ladder truck responded, along with 14 firefighters.

Medford Fire battalion chief Ron Nelson said an initial investigation showed the fire was intentionally set. Tests showed multiple ignition points in the garage area, and there was no power on at the home, which fire officials say has been vacant for about two years.

"It just meets the same mode of operation. They are targeting vacant homes," Nelson said. "The investigator (found) some intentional sets in the garage area. It's either a copycat or it's the same individual working that same line."

No one was hurt. The property is owned by Bank of America, fire officials said.

It's the eighth arson for west Medford in a year. The string of additional arsons, which started April 24, 2012, have been reported on West 11th Street, Thomas Road, Ivy Street, West Main Street, South Columbus Avenue and Stewart Avenue. All have been vacant homes where fire officials and law enforcement ruled out other potential causes.

"It's definitely got our attention. We're working pretty diligently, both on the law enforcement side and on our side," Nelson said. "It's getting very old. It's just a matter of time before he causes damage to another homeowner's property or hurts somebody."

Law enforcement officials concur, saying the continued fires are frustrating, especially with so much attention to the issue.

"You'd think the suspect would be laying low because of the police knowledge of the arsons," said Lt. Mike Budreau of Medford police.

He added setting a fire when it's still light out is a bold move on the part of the arsonist or arsonists.

The trend could also continue. During the police department's recent Operation C.A.R.E. event — where officers assessed public safety needs in a west Medford neighborhood through interviews — Budreau said officials came across 18 vacant houses.

"It just goes to show there are a lot of vacant homes out there right now," Budreau said. "I would certainly hope that folks pay a little more attention to the vacant homes in their neighborhood."

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or email

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