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Coffee roaster fire still under investigation

CENTRAL POINT — Employees who quickly contained a small fire at Mellelo Coffee Roasters in Central Point on Wednesday morning are working to pinpoint the equipment malfunction that caused it.

Jackson County Fire District No. 3 fire crews responded to a call at 9:48 a.m. that employees had hosed down the pipe of a roaster that caught fire at the building at 30 S. Third St.

"It was contained, but we were called just as a precaution," said District 3 Battalion Chief Rod Edwards.

Employees at Mellelo usually stand directly in front of the roaster while working, and while the machines are hot, and fire is part of the roasting process, they immediately knew that something was wrong.

"I don't mean to be funny, but when there's smoke there's fire," said owner Sal Mellelo.

Because the German-made roaster was just cleaned three weeks ago, Mellelo was unsure what could have caused the fire, but said there were minimal damages.

"It's going to be about the cost of one pipe and a can of paint," said Mellelo.

Two engines from District 3 responded to the scene, where crews checked the attic and roof for possible fire damage but found none. Employees were evacuated and the Central Point police blocked off the street while fire crews cleaned up the water.

Mellelo said he would spend the rest of the day trying to figure out what went wrong, and won't start up production again until he knows the roaster is running safely.

"We're going to take this apart piece by piece," said Mellelo. "I'll probably spend the night here. It's got to be done safely."

The Mellelo offices and roasting plant are in a former Central Point fire station that was used until 2000. Mellelo bought the building for his production facilities and offices in 2004.

A roaster at the site caught fire in 2007, sending flames into the building's chimney, and causing extensive damage to the roaster. That fire was also contained and put out quickly.

"We play with fire for a living," said Mellelo. "It really is dangerous what we do."

Reach Southern Oregon University intern Teresa Ristow at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.