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Suspect in fuel fire pleads not guilty

Defendant John Charles Salmons also asked for a speedy trial

The man accused of causing an April 12 fire at the Carson-Pacific Pride commercial fueling station in Medford has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

John Charles Salmons, 49, of no reported address, appeared Wednesday afternoon by video in Jackson County Circuit Court. His grand jury indictment lists 10 counts: two counts of first-degree arson, six counts of first-degree criminal mischief and single misdemeanor counts of recklessly endangering another person and second-degree criminal mischief.

Matthew Rowan, Salmons’ court-appointed defense attorney, entered the not guilty pleas for his client.

The fire at the fueling station, 936 S. Central Ave., resulted in an oil spill, environmental damage and destruction of four adjacent buildings.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality estimated that at least 20,000 gallons of petroleum products, mostly lubricant, either evaporated or were released as a result of the fire.

Salmons said repeatedly to Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia that he seeks a speedy trial, specifically one that would start within 60 days.

Mejia didn’t modify Salmons’ bail, which had been set at $500,000. The security order also stated that Salmons can’t be in possession of incendiary devices or attempt to make contact with alleged victims.

The defendant also faces a probation violation from a previous arson conviction in 2021. Salmons was arrested April 16 and held in the Jackson County Jail for that violation after a Medford police officer allegedly saw him with a warming fire on the bike path in the 1400 block of Biddle Road.

His bail for the probation violation is $10,000.

Police named Salmons as a suspect in the Carson-Pacific Pride fire Friday. After his arrest, police said surveillance video was a significant factor in determining that he was a suspect.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for May 9 in the Jackson County Circuit Court. The case has been assigned to Circuit Court Judge Kelly Ravassipour.