PHOENIX — A house built in 1908 is likely a total loss after a fire tore through it Wednesday, drawing firefighters from three agencies and shooting a column of smoke into the sky visible from Medford.

The fire was reported at 10 a.m. at the Rose House, which sat vacant at the corner of North Church and Fifth streets. Firefighters from Jackson County Fire District 5 had just been wrapping up an attic fire in Talent when the call went out.

"First-on-scene units advised we did have a fully involved structure," said District 5 Chief Dan Marshall, adding they then called for a second alarm.

Kristen Keever and Ashlee Thomas had just been leaving a truck stop where they'd eaten breakfast when they saw the smoke. Its intensity grew rapidly as they watched.

"As it progressed it was just darker and darker," Keever said.

They followed a fire truck to the scene and saw the flames, which reached up over the trees and spit a column of smoke into the sky.

"It started getting huge," Thomas said.

Crews from Medford Fire-Rescue and Ashland Fire & Rescue helped fight the fire, Marshall said. Seven engines and 25 firefighters packed the intersection and blasted the flames with water. Nearby residents packed the streets and watched.

"We went defensive mode or defensive strategy," Marshall said, adding crews' primary goal in fighting the fire was to protect nearby homes after they found out the house was unoccupied.

He said morning rainfall didn't play much of a role in extinguishing the flames. Pacific Power also responded to shut off power to the house, which affected about 20 nearby homes for about an hour. No one was inside the building, and no one was hurt. A majority of the interior, roof and siding was damaged by the flames.

Martin Bergersen said he bought the house about 13 years ago and had been renovating it. He'd redone the porches, reinforced the floorboards and done some framing and other structural work. He also has had it on the market for two years. Renovation of another property nearby and caring for his parents put the project on hold.

"I've been looking to sell it to somebody that would restore it," Bergersen said.

The fire's cause remains under investigation. Marshall said there have been several recent reports of transients and youth coming and going from the property.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or Follow him at