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Father, son die in Merlin structure fire

MERLIN — A father and son died Monday afternoon when flames overtook their home at 2081 Dellwood Drive, drawing dozens of fire engines and rescue personnel from several agencies just before 4 p.m.

A large plume of smoke rose from the single-level home at the end of a long driveway along Louse Creek near the Merlin-Galice Road.

Josephine County sheriffs deputies identified the deceased as Timothy Forster, 78, and Robert Forster, 50, who were living in the residence. Robert Forster was providing care for his father, who had limited mobility, police said. Investigators say there were no other victims in the residence at the time of the fire.

Autopsies on the two men are still pending and the investigation is continuing.

Josephine County's Major Crimes Unit, with help from the state fire marshal's office and the Rural Metro Fire Co., are investigating.

Neighbor Eric VanDusen, 20, noticed flames and smoke, but he and his father were not able to get inside.

"We checked the back windows, and there was nothing we could do," said Ted VanDusen, who lives next door. "It was total black."

Another neighbor saw the son getting the mail earlier that morning.

The Forsters had lived there for 14 years, Ted VanDusen said.

"They're caring people. They always helped us out," Eric VanDusen said. "I'm shocked."

The father had recently had hip surgery, Eric VanDusen said. He added that both men smoked.

Rural/Metro Fire Department handled the blaze, while Grants Pass Fire and Rescue, Inland Fire and Grants Pass Rural also responded.

Detectives removed the bodies and turned them over to the district medical examiner. Autopsies and positive identification are pending.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

One dog was outside the home, but another may have been in the house, and has not been found, authorities said.