Cause of Talent-area fire can't be determined

Place where fire started was too severely damaged to find necessary evidence, official says

TALENT — The cause of a fire that tore through a vacant cold-storage building and shot a tower of black smoke into the sky that was visible for miles Monday afternoon will stay a mystery, fire officials said.

The extent of the damage done to the building, part of the Associated Fruit storage facility — on the corner of Suncrest Road and South Pacific Highway outside Talent — was too severe at the ignition point, which started in the building's southwest portion that faces Suncrest Road.

"In a major loss situation where the area was so hot or totally involved, (that) does happen often," said Chief Dan Marshall of Jackson County Fire District No. 5. "You're never going to get a specific cause, and that's what happened here."

An interagency fire investigation team, made up of District No. 5, Ashland Fire & Rescue, the Oregon State Police and the state fire marshal, investigated potential causes of the fire Tuesday.

Natural and incendiary causes have been ruled out, along with most accidental ones.

Investigators said electricity could have been the possible culprit, as there was power going to the building, but that's not confirmed. Investigators couldn't find any evidence such as frayed wires.

"The one thing we could not rule out is electrical," Marshall said.

The Washington Federal-owned building, estimated at being worth just more than $250,000, sustained severe damage, and is likely a total loss, Marshall said.

Crews responded to the three-alarm fire at 2:13 p.m. Monday.

The District No. 5 crew stationed next-door was in the midst of a medical call in Talent when the fire started.

Thirteen engines responded, bringing crews from District No. 5, Ashland Fire & Rescue, Medford Fire-Rescue and Jacksonville Fire.

Embers rained down on some nearby homes and businesses during firefighting efforts, but no one was hurt.

A 2,500-square-foot portion was completely destroyed, while another attached structure also sustained severe smoke and fire damage.

Crews had the main source of the flames suppressed by 3:30 p.m., but crews stayed on the scene overnight to make sure the fire did not reignite.

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

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