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East Medford shop fire sparks second blaze two blocks away

A wood shop fire in east Medford this afternoon sent black smoke and embers billowing into the sky, igniting a second fire two blocks away and sending neighborhood residents running to the aid of arriving firefighters.

The fire broke out shortly after 2 p.m. in a detached wood shop at 1570 Spring St. A plume of black smoke visible from west of Interstate 5 drew hundreds of onlookers from the surrounding neighborhoods.

As emergency vehicles flooded the neighborhood, one man, who said he'd ridden his bike to the scene, stood in the middle of North Berkeley Way directing civilian traffic away from the scene. "I rode all the way from Bessie Street when I saw (the smoke)," he said, his shirt drenched in sweat.

As clouds of embers and burning debris — some of them identified by neighbors as book pages — floated through the neighborhood, dozens of homeowners took to their yards and rooftops with hoses in an effort to wet down their belongings while thick smoke choked the air.

Engines from both Medford and Jackson County Fire District 3 arrived on scene within minutes and quickly began an attack on the shop fire.

Less than half an hour later, fire crews were toned out to a second fire now burning in a field less than 100 yards away near the intersection of North Berkeley Way and Ridge Way, the new cloud of smoke drawing gasps of alarm from bystanders on Cambridge Circle.

Neighbors ran to the scene and grabbed available hoses in an attempt to stop the fire from spreading uphill. "I managed to get the hose over the fence, but it was really too short (to reach the flames)," said one man chugging a bottle of water.

Firefighters had the grass fire knocked down within half an hour, but not before it fully consumed a nearby shed. 

"This fire was started by embers from the other fire on Spring Street," said Fire Marshal Greg Kleinberg, gesturing to the blackened field behind him. He said the cause of the wood shop fire was still under investigation.

As of 4 p.m., firefighters were still conducting mop-up operations at the Spring Street fire. No injuries were reported in either fire, but the shop building was destroyed.

Kleinberg credited the neighbors with quickly springing into action to get water on the Ridge Way grass fire.

"They did a great job," Kleinberg said. "This could have taken out another house."

 Reach reporter Thomas Moriarty at 541-776-4471, or by email at tmoriarty@mailtribune.com. Follow him at @ThomasDMoriarty.

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A detached wood shop was burned in the fire that started near Spring Street and North Berkeley Way in east Medford this afternoon. Mail Tribune / Thomas Moriarty
A fire is burning in the area of Cambridge Circle and North Berkeley Way in Medford. Mail Tribune / Thomas Moriarty