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Finding the cause of a fire isn't always a simple task

Each time I read about a house fire in the Mail Tribune, I'm always so curious how these fires start. The stories always conclude that the cause of the fire is still under investigation, and I rarely see a follow-up story about the actual cause.

In my opinion, it's a very important part of the story. Am I missing something here, or is there another way for me to find out? I guess I could call the fire department.

— Ben Y., no address given

Message received, Ben. We here at Since You Asked take these kinds of suggestions seriously, and will pass it along to the right parties to get more follow-ups on causes.

We agree with you that the cause of a fire is a key component of any story. We also know from experience that fire investigations can take anywhere from a few hours to a week or more, depending on the complexity and the state of the building after the blaze.

"We treat every fire like it's a clean slate," said Don Hickman, public information officer for Jackson County Fire District No. 3.

Fire investigators look for a variety of clues, Hickman added, including burn patterns, the level of char among burned materials, and others.

"Sometimes we can get clues from family members just by talking to them," he said. "It might be, 'Oh, I left a candle lit in my bedroom.' "

In the case of Wednesday's warehouse fire in downtown Medford, the cause is going to take longer. The size of the building, size of the fire, and extent of the damage make the investigation a much more trying task.

"(It) could take up to a week or more," Hickman said.

But when they do get the answer, Ben, we'll do our best to make sure you know about it.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.