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Fires in downtown Medford considered arsons

Three small fires reported across downtown Medford early Tuesday likely were set by an arsonist, city police and fire agencies said.

Medford Fire-Rescue responded to the fires between about 4:30 and 5:30 a.m., and all the blazes were within a half-mile of each other. 

"Based on the timing and frequency and the locations, and the methodology, they are looking like intentionally set fires," said Medford Fire Battalion Chief Rick Rohrbough. "They were so small and incidental that after the third one, (we) called an investigator."

The first fire was reported at 4:27 a.m. at a construction site at the corner of West Fifth and North Ivy streets. An engine crew arrived to see a portable toilet burning. Firefighters quickly extinguished the flames. The fire caused about $1,200 in damage.

Thirty-four minutes later, an engine rolled to a fire burning in a trash can behind the New Far East Restaurant, 236 N. Front St. That blaze caused about $350 in damage. 

Another 33 minutes went by before fire crews were headed to a third fire, which burned in a Dumpster holding cardboard behind Barney's Better Burgers at 415 N. Riverside Ave. It resulted in about $500 in damage. 

It's the second time in less than three years a suspicious fire was reported at the burger restaurant. On June 18, 2013, four engines arrived at the restaurant at about 12:22 a.m. after reports of the building being on fire. Thick smoke and flames shot from the front of the restaurant. The fire resulted in about $80,000 in damage. Police believe the 2013 arsonist broke in and swiped the cash register before setting the building ablaze. The restaurant reopened in January 2014, but the case went cold. 

No one was injured in any of the suspicious fires Tuesday, officials said. They're hoping to keep it that way. 

"We would like to stop this before structure damage or loss of life occurs," a Medford police Facebook post said. 

Anyone with information about the fires is asked to contact the Medford police Criminal Investigations Division at 541-774-2230.

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