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Suspect arrested for Pacific Pride fire

Homeless man accused of arson, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment
Salmons

Medford police have arrested a suspect in the April 12 Carson-Pacific Pride fire that burned several businesses in Medford.

John Charles Salmons, 49, who has no reported address, was arrested April 16 on a probation violation after an officer saw him with a warming fire on the bike path in the 1400 block of Biddle Road.

Police said they later connected him to the Pacific Pride fire, adding that video surveillance played a key role in determining he was a suspect.

“The Pacific Pride fire was believed to have been started intentionally,” Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau stated in a news advisory released late Friday afternoon.

Salmons is accused of first-degree arson, six counts of criminal mischief and reckless endangerment stemming from the commercial fuel station fire.

He was previously convicted of arson for an incident that occurred in the city Aug. 1, 2021, Budreau added.

Anyone with information related to the Pacific Pride fire was asked to call Medford police at 541-770-4783 and refer to case number 22-6203.

On Thursday, Medford City Council ratified Mayor Randy Sparacino’s declaration of a local state of emergency in response to the Pacific Pride fire.

The blaze, which started at 936 S. Central Ave., destroyed four adjacent buildings that had housed seven businesses. It also released an estimated 20,000 gallons of petroleum products, with an undetermined amount making it into storm drains and into Bear Creek, causing a “yet-undetermined level of environmental damage,” wrote City Attorney Eric Mitton in his agenda report to councilors.

The fire, explosions and oil spill damaged property, the environment and caused financial loss. According to Chapter 12 of the city’s municipal code, an emergency declaration is a way to reduce the vulnerability of the city and alleviate residents’ suffering. It’s a tool to assist the city government in providing “recovery and relief assistance for the victims of emergencies,” the code states.

The declaration will allow the city to obtain assistance from state and federal authorities. Standard city procedures for procurement can be suspended for work related to the emergency. And city departments will be able to “take certain actions to alleviate damage due to the emergency” and provide for the health and safety of residents.

“This incident was very complex,” Medford fire Chief Eric Thompson said at the meeting. “Any time you have a petroleum-based fire, it’s not like your common fire. It’s very challenging to get out.”

He asked the councilors to imagine the roadway and sidewalk both on fire. The fire spread rapidly and the highly flammable oils that had been in containers ran down the street and into the storm drains.

“That’s how the fire got into adjacent structures,” Thompson explained. “It lapped underneath the eaves of those adjacent buildings.”

One crew had to jump through the fire line to save a woman trapped between the line and one of the buildings with burning eaves.

The fire burned so hot that it melted natural gas utility meters, which sent natural gas flowing.

“Between the petroleum fires, fires in the storm drains, 60-foot flames and multiple explosions throughout the night, we were very fortunate we had nobody injured or killed,” Thompson said.

Reach reporter Terri Harber at tharber@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4468.