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Fire victim hoped to start a business with his son

WHITE CITY — Jeff Wolfard was in the shower Wednesday night when he noticed the lights flickering. Then the water pressure started to drop.

A fire that was raging outside tore through a barn, outbuilding and a shop, setting multiple vehicles and a wealth of expensive tools ablaze.

"I came out of the shower to a big glow. No way of fighting it, because when the electricity went down, you have no way of fighting it," Wolfard said.

The fire was one of two that kept multiple Jackson County fire agencies busy late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. The fire on Wolfard's property, 5875 Beagle Road, was reported at 10:53 p.m. by a neighbor who heard an explosion. The second blaze was reported 90 minutes later at 16664 Jones Road, mere minutes away.

Jackson County Fire District 3 and the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office are eyeing those factors closely as their investigation into the incidents continues, though no causes or links have been confirmed.

"The interesting thing about these fires is they were in pretty close proximity to each other," said Fire District 3 spokeswoman Ashley Lara. "If there is any link between them, we'll definitely pursue everything."

No injuries to people or pets were reported in either incident, fire officials said.

Wolfard said he threw on some clothes, ran outside barefoot and tried to put some water on it, but to no avail.

"It wasn't much of a fight," he said. 

Three engines from Fire District 3 responded, assisted by two water trucks and a support engine from Medford Fire-Rescue. Crews arrived to find a fully involved barn and shop, along with two travel trailers and two cars afire. The structure and vehicles are considered total losses, Lara said, though some other travel trailers and vehicles were saved from the flames.

The tools that burned included gear Wolfard said he had accumulated over the years, some inherited from his late father. 

"Probably 30 tool boxes, probably $1,000 worth of tools in each one of those that are totally useless now," Wolfard said. "It literally fused a lot of the tools that are in those tool boxes right together."

Wolfard had been getting ready to try and start a business with his son. He had been preparing to insure his equipment just before the fire broke out.

"I was 24 hours too late," he said.

At 12:20 a.m. Thursday, 911 dispatch received a call from someone who reported seeing flames in the dark a considerable distance away. Two Fire District 3 engines, a Medford Fire-Rescue engine and two Oregon Department of Forestry vehicles responded to the fire on Jones Road.

"Access was really difficult. There was a really long driveway," Lara said.

Crews found a mobile home ablaze. It is also considered a total loss. No one was home.

Wolfard has lived at his property since 1995. He said he plans to get back on his feet, though it will be a daunting task.

"You've just got to nut up and jump in, clean it up and rebuild from the ground up," he said. "I'm not just going to roll over and play dead."

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

Jeff Wolfard stands in what remains of his barn, outbuilding and a shop, which were destroyed in a fire Wednesday night near White City. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch