Unsolved fires start to prove costly in Medford

A string of 12 west Medford house fires deemed arson or suspicious in nature since April 2012 have racked up more than $410,000 in damages, and more fires may be added to that list.Police and Medford Fire-Rescue are analyzing other recent fires that could be connected."We certainly have had more fires than the list that we've put out that haven't been solved. Some of those were house fires," said Gordon Sletmo, Medford Fire-Rescue acting fire chief."This is absolutely unprecedented," said Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau. "We've had arsonists in the past lighting fires on a repeat basis. Typically they'd be to trash, pallets, junk, weeds. This person is specifically targeting homes."But when it comes to clues about who's lighting the match, investigators say they don't have a lot to go on.All the houses have been abandoned, police think it's someone working alone, and there are consistencies among all of the intentionally set fires, though police declined to detail the commonalities. Most of the other clues have been lost in the flames."It's surprising that we have (this many) residential fires, all believed to be arson, and we don't have a solid suspect," Budreau said. "It just goes to show how tough these cases can be."Fire officials echoed that sentiment, saying arson investigations can sometimes take years before a suspect is tracked."They're very slow," said Ralph Sartain, fire investigator for Medford Fire-Rescue. "It takes a while to put everything together and get your game plan."Police and fire officials say it's tough to speculate on a motive at this point."It's hard to say until we find the person and sit down and have a talk with them," Sartain said. "Luckily he's been targeting places that have not been adjacent to any other living properties."Police believe the arsons will continue until a suspect is arrested. Investigators are urging residents of the west Medford area to be on the lookout and report any suspicious activity."When it comes to these types of cases, it really is going to come down to a lucky break," Budreau said. "People are seeing this guy, they just don't know what they're seeing."Anyone with information about the case should call Medford police detectives at 541-774-2230.Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com.
View Arson fires in Medford in a larger map

Counting the cost

Estimated damages per house:

1122 W. 11th St. — $5,000

1502 Thomas Road — $50,000

612 Ivy St. — $45,000

2425 Edgemont St. — $200

414 W. Jackson St. — $100,000

1702 W. Main St. — $200

1468 S. Columbus Ave. — $100,000

1302 Ross Lane — $20,000

1947 Stewart Ave. — $10,000

1914 Prune St. — $30,000

1638 Stewart Ave. — $50,000*

1105 W. Fourth St. — no damage estimate available

* Fire officials are calling the house a total loss but did not provide a damage estimate; the number here was based on the property's assessed value, obtained from Jackson County Property Data online.

— Source: Medford police


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