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Arsonist attempts to burn down building at Jackson Elementary

Medford police are looking for an arsonist who tried to set fire to the La Clinica building at Jackson Elementary School late Wednesday.

Surveillance videos, which police obtained from the Medford School District, show a man entering the campus of the west Medford school around 10:26 p.m. Wednesday and, about 13 minutes later, trying to light a piece of clothing on fire near the stand-alone health center adjacent to the school’s cafeteria.

The flame fizzled out after less than a minute, so the suspect repositioned and relit it, said Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau.

“It’s clear that he was intending to burn that building to the ground,” Budreau said.

Police said the suspect also tried to break a window of the cafeteria with a rock but the Plexiglas held.

The smoldering fire was discovered around 7:30 a.m. Thursday by a school staff member who used a fire extinguisher to put it out and notified emergency personnel, said district spokeswoman Natalie Hurd.

Only a small section of the subflooring caught on fire and burned through the night. Fire-restrictive plank siding prevented the fire from growing and also from being noticed sooner, said Ralph Sartain, a fire inspector with Medford Fire-Rescue.

Hurd estimated the damage was less than $10,000.

Elementary students in the gym and cafeteria were evacuated into the main part of the school until firefighters deemed it was safe, Hurd said.

Although the school is fenced, the gates are only locked when school is in session.

The health center is currently closed but will re-open Tuesday. Parents of children needing immediate care may contact the La Clinica health centers at Washington or Oak Grove elementary schools, said Julie Wurth, communications director for La Clinica.

“We don’t have any reason to believe someone was targeting La Clinica," Wurth said.

Anyone with information or able to identify the suspect in the video is asked to contact the Medford Police Department at 541-770-4783.

Reach reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.