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Woodstove drying medical marijuana sparks east Medford house fire

A woodstove used to dry medical marijuana was the likely culprit in a Wednesday night house fire in east Medford.

Medford Fire-Rescue crews called out a second alarm upon rolling up to the burning structure at the corner of Valley View Drive and Matthews Place. Witnesses at the scene reported seeing smoke and flames as far away as North Medford High School.

The fire sparked in an outbuilding beside the single story house just after 7 p.m. The fire had spread to the home by the time crews arrive.

Fire crews converged on a hectic scene as Medford police officers reported that a man had reentered the burning home and refused to leave, Medford Fire-Rescue Capt. Sean Fey said.

"It made it chaotic because we did not know if we had to break down a door to rescue the man," Fey said. "The man did exit the house within a minute of entering."

As this was happening fire crews attacked the flames chewing through the outbuilding and one side of the residence.

The outbuilding was destroyed, but firefighters managed to douse the flames before the home was consumed.

Fire did enter the home's wall and attic, but did not spread to any living areas, Fey said.

"It's heavily damaged but not a total loss," Fey added.

Fire officials received reports that 15 cats and at four dogs resided at the property. No deceased animals were found inside the home, though not all of the animals had been accounted for an hour after the fire was put out.

Medford Fire-Rescue Investigator Ralph Sartain surveyed the scene and came to the preliminary conclusion that a woodstove used to dry harvested medical marijuana likely caused the fire.

"He had gasoline and wood chips around the stove as well as racks with drying marijuana," Sartain said.

Sartain's early information suggested the marijuana garden was within legal limits and no charges were likely to be filed. However, this could change after further investigation by Medford police.

Fey did not know why the man reentered the burning home and refused police orders to leave. Though he did say it creates further problems at an already dangerous scene.

"Early in the fire we're often short-handed and we need to know if people are inside the residence," Fey said. "We would encourage anyone to not enter their homes when there is a fire."

— Chris Conrad

Clarification: This story has been updated to show the correct date of the fire.