CAUSE UNKNOWN

Investigators seek clues to origin of blaze that blackened a patch of waist-high weeds along North Pacific Highway
Fire crews responded Wednesday afternoon to a grass fire that sent up a plume of smoke behind Grange Co-op's Pet Country store off North Pacific Highway. Mail Tribune / Julia MooreJulia Moore

Fire crews quickly doused a blaze that charred a patch of brush along North Pacific Highway near the Grange Co-op Wednesday.

The fire sparked shortly after 4 p.m. in a grassy area behind the Grange Co-op's Pet Country, 2833 N. Pacific Highway.

Crews gained control of the fire within minutes, but not before it sent a plume of smoke high above north Medford.

Flames moved quickly through the dry, waist-high grass and brush but did not reach a pile of lumber stacked outside the co-op. A steady breeze pushed the smoke from the fire into downtown Medford.

The fire came close to Pet Country and several other businesses along the highway but no structures were damaged.

Intense smoke temporarily shorted out power lines, robbing 2,158 Pacific Power customers in Jacksonville and Ruch of power for nearly an hour, Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt said.

Several homeless camps were seen throughout the grassy area where the fire sparked.

Medford police Sgt. Josh Reimer said detectives were dispatched to the scene to investigate whether the fire was purposely set.

"We've had a series of unsolved fires in town recently, so we are going to take a look at any fire that occurs," Reimer said. "But right now, we don't have enough information to say if these fires are related to each other."

There is no obvious link between Wednesday's grass fire and the homes that have been burned by arson fires over the past few months in west Medford.

The fire exposed a number of homeless camping spots sprinkled though the lot behind the co-op.

A 41-year-old transient known to frequent the area was found dead Tuesday near the spot where the fire broke out a day later.

The man's body has been turned over to the medical examiner, who will determine the cause of death.

Anytime someone dies outside of a hospital, police look into the death for the possibly that it was a homicide.

Medford police and Medford Fire-Rescue investigators collected evidence at the scene late into the evening. The cause of the fire could be released in the coming days.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.


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