Arson at Medford eatery linked to burglary

Medford fire investigators search Barney's Burgers after a burglar grabbed the register and set the North Riverside Avenue restaurant on fire. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell

Someone broke into a Medford hamburger restaurant early Tuesday morning, swiped a cash register and an undisclosed amount of money, and lit the building on fire before fleeing, police and fire officials confirmed.

"There's evidence that is consistent with an arson-type fire," said Medford Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Erin Sawall.

How to help

Anyone with information about any of the fires should call Detective Tony Young at Medford police Criminal Investigation Division at 541-774-2230.

Police believe the burglar or burglars entered Barney's Burgers, at 415 N. Riverside Ave., through an unsecured door and started the fire near the cash register. The fire gutted the building's front end, torching the walls, counter space and furniture.

Medford fire inspector Ralph Sartain said the blaze caused an estimated $80,000 in damage to the structure and contents, which he called a total loss.

Medford Fire-Rescue responded to the fire at 12:22 a.m. Heavy fire and smoke greeted crews.

"The whole front of the building was involved in fire," said Sawall.

Four engines and 14 personnel attacked the blaze and had it under control in seven minutes. Riverside Avenue was temporarily shut down.

"The business basically goes right up to the sidewalk, and there were flames shooting out the front window," said Lt. Mike Budreau of the Medford Police Department.

Sawall said crews were able to keep the flames confined to the front of the building, where the dining and food-preparation areas were located. That section was destroyed, with smoke damage throughout the rest of the building. The owners salvaged some frozen items from the back, fire officials said. No injuries were reported.

When the fire was out, fire officials and Medford police found evidence pointing to arson, they said. The restaurant has since been boarded up.

The owners declined to comment on the incident. They are insured. State business records show the business has been open since June 2011. The investigation is ongoing.

Sartain said he doesn't believe the case is related to a series of arsons that have rocked Medford over the past year, because the ignition method used in Tuesday's fire was different.

Cases in which burglary and arson occur simultaneously are rare, police said.

"I can't really think of another case where it was a burglary and arson combined," said Budreau, adding that Tuesday's fire occurred in an area that is busier than the west Medford neighborhoods where at least 12 other arsons have been identified.

Police said they believe those fires, stretching back to April 2012, were set by the same person. Those fires occurred on South Columbus Avenue, West Fourth Street, West 11th Street, Prune Street, Thomas Road, Ivy Street, Edgemont Street, Jackson Street, Main Street, Ross Lane and Stewart Avenue. Damages from those incidents, not including the Barney's fire, exceed $410,000, based on estimates provided by Medford police and fire agencies.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or

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