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MailTribune.com
  • Latest blaze may be arsonist's work

    Daylight fire could mean perpetrator is getting bolder, investigators say
  • Police fear that a suspicious Monday afternoon fire at the side of a West Medford apartment could mean the city's serial arsonist is getting bolder in running the string of fires to 18 in less than a month.
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  • Police fear that a suspicious Monday afternoon fire at the side of a West Medford apartment could mean the city's serial arsonist is getting bolder in running the string of fires to 18 in less than a month.
    Despite increased police patrols and regular media attention, the suspected arsonist apparently touched off a 1 p.m. fire near a usually busy alley behind the 200 block of North Ivy Street, where it was discovered by a neighbor and quickly doused by firefighters.
    While all of the 17 West Medford arsons since June 25 have been set along alleys and the backs of buildings, Monday's was the first such mid-day blaze. The first 17 were all set in the early morning hours, according to the Medford Police Department.
    "If it is our arsonist, obviously he's mixing up his game," Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said. "To do it at high noon with people all over the place, he's getting brazen."
    Monday's incident appears to have originated in dead grass at the base of an uninhabited upstairs apartment with alley access. It charred the side of the building, lattice and part of the stairs.
    Fire inspectors fire initially listed it Monday as having an undetermined cause, Budreau said.
    "Of course, we believe it's going to be suspicious, based on the manner and the location compared to the other arson fires," Budreau said.
    Monday's fire left neighbors edgy.
    "They need to find out who this fire bug is and catch him before he hurts somebody," said Terry Rogers, who lives next door.
    Deborah Fay said she was taking a stroller out of the Family Nurturing Center on North Oakdale Avenue and into the alley shared with North Ivy Street residents. That's when she discovered the fire at the base of the apartment on the other side of the alley.
    "I smelled something, looked up and I saw flames," Fay says.
    Fay yelled for a coworker to call 911 before darting across the alley and banging on two of the apartment's doors, but no one came out, she said. Fay then grabbed a hose and started watering above the flames in hopes of keeping it from spreading before firefighters arrived and quickly doused the flames.
    Fay said she looked up and down the alley right after noticing the flames but saw no one.
    "People come and go back here a lot," she said.
    Police said they have increased patrols in their hunt for a suspect and are urging Medford residents to remain on the lookout for any suspicious activity.
    Investigators believe the arsons may have started with the massive inferno that leveled a former fruit-packing plant on Fir Street in downtown Medford on June 25.
    Most of the fires have been set in the early-morning hours, between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.
    One of three July 16 arson fires was set on the outside of an occupied home while a woman was asleep inside. She awoke at 4 a.m. to the glow of flames and the snap of burning wood and ran from the home uninjured as firefighters rushed to the scene.
    Any information about the case should be reported to Medford police Detective Tony Young at 541-774-2230.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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