JACKSONVILLE — A three-alarm fire tore through a Jacksonville home early Tuesday morning, shooting a column of flames into the sky that could reportedly be seen from Medford.
The fire, called in just after 2:30 a.m. at 720 Applegate St., originally was reported as smoke and flames coming from the rear of the structure, Jacksonville fire officials said. The blaze's severity changed when crews arrived on the scene, as flames began to engulf the structure.
"Before we could even get off the rig and get ready to go, it just blew up on them," said Chris Arnold, Jacksonville Fire Department's public information officer. "It flared up on (them) and we had a totally involved house."
Fire crews changed their original attack plan of dousing the fire from the inside. The flames began to spread, ripping through vegetation surrounding the home and threatening other houses adjacent to the property.
"You could see it for miles," said Anna Morris, who lives across the street and is a friend and housekeeper for the occupant, Sharon Raab. She estimated the flames were 20 feet above the nearby treetops.
Fire crews upgraded the response to a second-alarm fire, then a third. Eight engines went to the scene, with crews from Medford Fire-Rescue, Applegate Fire and Jackson County Fire District No. 3 joining the Jacksonville units that had already arrived.
Arnold estimated a total of about 34 firefighters responded, with the extra crews needed to help manage the scene.
"We're a small department, so we have to anticipate," he said.
Nearby neighbor Tom Davis said his dogs alerted him to the fire as their whimpers awakened him while he slept. He looked out the bedroom window and saw the flames. He walked to the scene to get a closer look and take some pictures.
"There must have been almost a dozen fire trucks lined up along Applegate Street," Davis said. "My guess would be the flames were maybe on the order of about 30 feet high."
The flames did spread to a home next door, damaging the attic space. Glowing embers rained down. A trailer in the driveway of another home also caught fire, with the heat peeling back some paint on the side. The back of a car also was damaged, with both taillights melting from the intense heat. No one was hurt in the fire.
Fire crews blocked off Applegate Street between "M" and Graham streets until about midday Tuesday while crews remained on the scene making sure flames did not reignite. Arnold estimated the building was a total loss.
The incident remained under investigation Tuesday afternoon.
Jackson County property records show Raab as one of the homeowners. She was able to stay with friends after being displaced from her home. Fire crews said she does have insurance. She could not be reached for comment.
"She's still in shock," Morris said. "She didn't have time to get anything."
Davis said the incident prompted him to take action on cleaning up dry brush around his home.
Morris added that three pets were still being searched for after the fire. All are believed to have run from the home. A golden retriever named Billy, with a fresh haircut, and two cats — one a calico and one a tabby — were still missing.
"Our main concern is getting the word out there for the pets," Morris said.
Neighbors described Raab as a quiet, friendly person who put up impressive decorative Christmas light displays on the home.
"She's a very lovely person," Morris said. "I'm really sad for her.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.