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Man arrested for arson, reckless burning

A man is being held in the Jackson County Jail on arson and reckless burning charges, with police alleging he recently set multiple fires in downtown Medford.

Thomas Lloyd Austin, 58, listed as a Grants Pass resident, was arraigned Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court. He is being held on one count of first-degree arson, seven counts of second-degree arson and eight misdemeanor counts of reckless burning, jail records showed.

Between 1 and 4 a.m. last Friday, Medford Fire-Rescue responded to four fires within the city limits, “all in very close proximity,” according to Medford police Lt. Kerry Curtis. Three of the fires, reported in the 500 block of East Fourth Street, the first block of South Grape Street and the 100 block of South Riverside Drive, were trash fires. The fourth ignited in a grassy area in Hawthorne Park near the basketball courts, Curtis said.

“Obviously, we’re very concerned because we’ve had these strings of fires before,” Curtis said, noting fires that started along the Bear Creek Greenway, one of which burned 97 acres in the Central Point area, left a 60-year-old man dead and forced the evacuation of numerous businesses and homes earlier this month.

Police have not charged Austin with any of the Greenway fires, though they are “looking into that,” Curtis said.

No fires were reported Saturday, but the activity resumed Sunday, first with a grass fire off Earhart Street just before 9 a.m., followed by a dumpster fire at the Sis-Q Motel just south of Earhart Street. Fire crews responded to a third fire at 9:32 a.m. near Jack in the Box on Barnett Road.

Surveillance camera footage obtained by police showed a man walking the path of the first two fires — from Earhart Street to the motel — then away from the motel. Shortly after the Jack in the Box fire, an officer observed the man walking into a McDonald’s restaurant on Barnett Road. Police found the man, later identified as Austin, in the restaurant bathroom, Curtis said.

After interviewing him, police made an arrest.

“We were able to obtain information and charge him for the Friday fires, as well,” Curtis said.

Austin has no felony criminal history listed in the state, court records show.

He was being held on $112,500 bail.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com or at 541-776-4468.

Thomas Lloyd Austin