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MailTribune.com
  • Medford crews, others put out two fires on Thursday

    One was near Servpro on Sage Road, the other in a harvester and hayfield on Corona Avenue
  • A spark-throwing combine harvester caught fire and blackened about 4 acres of a dry hayfield while threatening several homes near the corner of Corona Avenue and Steelhead Run Drive, Thursday evening.
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  • A spark-throwing combine harvester caught fire and blackened about 4 acres of a dry hayfield while threatening several homes near the corner of Corona Avenue and Steelhead Run Drive, Thursday evening.
    Medford firefighters responded to the blaze at about 6:08 p.m., attacking the quick-spreading grass fire before concentrating on dousing the flaming, green, grain-filled John Deere.
    The fire sent a thick plume of black smoke rising above the north Medford neighborhood as its residents clogged the streets to watch the machinery burn.
    The property is owned by Jackson County and under the supervision of the Medford airport, but leased out to a private party who grows hay there, according to property records and an airport worker on scene.
    The blaze threatened about eight homes, burning to the backyard fences of a few properties, said Justin Bates, deputy fire chief from Medford Fire-Rescue.
    "When the humidity goes down and the wind picks up, a little spark is going to take off like this" Bates said.
    Crews from MFR were putting the finishing touches on extinguishing a fire across town at Servpro on Sage Road when a confused report of a structure fire on Whittle Avenue came across the radio. Servpro does emergency restoration, including cleanup work after fires.
    Whittle Avenue flanks the east side of the about 50-acre field where the combine caught fire.
    Medford firefighters were first on the scene, arriving at about 6:11 p.m. to find the combine and field burning, Bates said.
    "We were at the other fire on the other side of town, when this call came, so we diverted a bunch of resources," he said. "They were mowing out in the grass ... caught the grass on fire. It was windy this afternoon, so it spread."
    Crews with a pair of MFR engines and brush trucks responded to the blaze along with an engine from Jackson County Fire District No. 3. Firefighters in a pair of Oregon Department of Forestry engines and two Arizona-based National Park Service engines also responded.
    The Arizona engine crews are working with the Forest Service in Medford, whose resources are mostly tied up in large wildfires burning in Eastern Oregon, Bates said.
    About 30 firefighters battled the combine and grass fire. No injuries were reported.
    Bates said Medford police helped firefighters pull hoses when the fast moving fire was threatening structures.
    And had it not been for everyone's efforts, he said, "we could have lost some structures here."
    Steelhead Run Drive resident Jim Edington , 68, said he has been worried for the past month that the field poses a fire hazard.
    The fire burned to the edge Steelhead Run Drive straight across the street from Edington's home. It was a little too close for comfort, he said.
    Edington said he complained to the county several times this summer about the height of the hay in the field and the fire risk it poses.
    "Now, just finally someone got over here to take care of it and they start a fire," Edigton said, shaking his head. "Hopefully they will start being better neighbors."
    Bates said fire investigators are working to determine the cause of the fire at Servpro, which started in a pile of wood stacked against an outside wall of the building.
    Medford police were on the scene there conducting an investigation after a series of 13 recent arsons.
    "The fact that it started outside the building does make it suspicious," Bates said, adding it will be up to the fire investigator to determine the cause.
    Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/swhlr.
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