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Warehouse fire probe is delayed

Unstable parts of the Medford building must come down first

Investigators will have a difficult time discovering what started Tuesday's fire in an abandoned Medford warehouse, and they may never be certain that no one died in the blaze, fire officials said.

Because the fire so badly damaged the building on Front Street, and portions had to be demolished, fire investigators are looking at sifting through masses of rubble to find any answers, said Medford fire Chief Dave Bierwiler. There's nothing to indicate that anyone was inside the burning warehouse, but firefighters may never be sure, he added.

We're looking for a place to start, Bierwiler said

The investigation will be put off until Tuesday, when tottering upper portions of the three-sectioned building can be demolished.

The north end, where investigators are searching for the fire's origin, was torn down and upper floors of the two other sections ' one built of concrete and the other of brick ' were partially demolished. The lower two stories would most likely be salvaged, firefighters said.

But the wreckage will continue to smolder and smoke for the next few days, so a crew of firefighters is at the scene around the clock in case the fire flares up again.

Our big concern is that it would hit a bunch of wood product and ignite and start sending brands (embers) off, said Brian Fish, training chief for the Medford Fire Department.

In addition to the fire and demolition crews, an employee of Neilson Research Corp. was on hand to sample the gallons of water left over from fighting the fire that trickled into the warehouse's basement.

If the water is contaminated with any hazardous chemicals, it will have to be treated or carted away, Bierwiler said. But for now, firefighters said they believe the building's concrete floor will keep the water from leaking out. An estimated 4 million gallons of water was dumped on the fire.

Detectives continued interviewing people who were near the warehouse when the blaze broke out around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. The fire is being called suspicious, but there are no suspects.

So far, we've chased all the information that's been supplied, said Medford police Lt. Tim George.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Medford police Detective Steve Edson at 774-2230.

Fire investigators are looking for people who may have been in the building before the fire to explain how the interior looked. Anyone with information should contact Medford Fire Department fire prevention officer Dan Patterson at 774-2300.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail