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No cause determined in fire that destroyed historic house

PHOENIX — The cause of a fire that leveled a historic house in Phoenix Wednesday is officially undetermined.

Chief Dan Marshall of Jackson County Fire District No. 5 said severe damage to the the Rose House, located at the corner of North Fifth and Church streets, left investigators unable to pin down a cause.

"It was very difficult to determine the area of origin or how it started," Marshall said.

The fire was reported at about 10 a.m., drawing 25 firefighters from Fire District 5, Medford Fire-Rescue, and Ashland Fire & Rescue.

"By the time our first units were on scene, we had fire and smoke through the roof, so it was totally involved," Marshall said.

When crews discovered no one was inside the house, they went into defensive mode, making sure the fire did not spread to nearby residences, one as close as 10 feet away.

"When we do that, especially with that much fire in a residential neighborhood, we're going to put as much water on it as we can," Marshall said. "Not only did we have extensive fire damage, we also had extensive water damage."

Firefighting efforts closed the intersection, and power was briefly shut off for surrounding homes. The smoke column was visible from parts of Medford. No one was hurt, but the structure is a total loss.

The home, originally known as the Newberry-Rose House, was built in 1908. Gus Newberry and wife, Nellie Rose — granddaughter of town founder Samuel Colver — were the first to live there. Owner Martin Bergersen purchased the property 13 years ago and did some structural renovations before putting it on the market in 2012. 

There was electricity running to the house, Marshall said, and there have been issues with youth and transients coming and going from the property. It's unlikely a lightning strike was the culprit. But any evidence that would have pointed toward a specific cause is gone, he said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.