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Fire fillets rural Ashland farmhouse

A three-alarm fire destroyed a home on an organic farm in the 1700 block of North Valley View Road Wednesday afternoon, shooting a column of smoke into the sky that was visible from miles away.

Jackson County Fire District No. 5 Chief Dan Marshall said the home was consumed by flames by the time crews arrived, 12 minutes after the 911 call came in shortly before noon.

"We had fire through the roof when the first unit got there," Marshall said.

The roof of the two-story home collapsed during firefighting efforts, but no one was injured.

Owner Cate Yocum said she, her husband, Bill, and their adult son were at home when the fire broke out. She had been resting on the couch with the flu when she heard the smoke alarm. The family got out safely, and she was able to move a Toyota Prius before flames reached the garage — but it was the only possession she was able to save.

"I just had no idea something like this could happen," Yocum said.

Yocum said the home was built in 1989, and her family has lived there since 1993. The Yocums operate an organic farm powered by solar and wind energy.

They started farming under the name Yocum and Sun about three years ago, she said. She worked as a teacher, and her husband worked in government. Solar panels and wind spires support the energy required to farm.

"We do everything we can to survive financially," she said.

Crews quickly triggered a second alarm to bring additional resources, then later went to a third alarm because of the fire's intensity, Marshall said.

In all, seven fire engines, four water tankers and 40 firefighters from Jackson County fire districts 5 and 3, Medford, Ashland and Jacksonville worked to rein in the fire. Water trucks hauled water, then dumped it in 2,200-gallon plastic reservoirs that the fire engines could pump from. A narrow driveway nearly a quarter-of-a-mile long added to the complexity of the operation.

"We had some tough access," Marshall said.

Marshall said firefighters adopted a defensive strategy and didn't go inside the burning building, battling instead from outside.

The home was destroyed, Marshall said. The fire apparently started in the daylight basement. As of Wednesday afternoon, the fire's cause was still under investigation.

Laura Lotspeich, a longtime friend of the Yocums, said she could see the smoke from across the valley. She drove over immediately to make sure everyone was OK.

"It was easy to tell it was their house. I just couldn't not come and check," she said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com; reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or by email at slemon@mailtribune.com.

Correction: A word in the headline of this story has been corrected.