Agencies arrange help for eight families displaced by fire

Some of the eight families that were displaced after a fire destroyed part of their eight-plex Wednesday night returned to their townhouses today to tour the damage, obtain necessities and begin the process of finding a new place to live.

ACCESS Inc., the owner of the low-income Barnett Townhomes at 1868 E. Barnett Road, as well as the Jackson County Housing Authority and the Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross were arranging for new accommodations for the families and other necessities. The families spent the night at Homewood Suites by Hilton on Ellendale Drive Wednesday night with emergency funds provided by the Red Cross.

Most of the homes' contents appeared salvageable except for in Unit 45, where the fire originated.

A child playing with a cigarette lighter caused the fire that ripped through the development Wednesday night, leaving eight units uninhabitable, fire officials said.

The fire hollowed out Unit 45, burning through the townhouse's back wall and reducing two sofas inside the living room to springs and ashes. A single mother and her three sons lived in the unit.

Medford Fire Investigator Karl Giepel said it was fortunate that the woman's 7-year-old son, who caused the blaze, immediately notified his mother of the fire.

"The one good thing he did was he ran and told his mother there was a fire," he said. "A lot of juveniles who start fires just run and hide."

He said the prompt 9-1-1 call by his mother enabled firefighters to save the other units.

The mother was treated last night for smoke inhalation at Rogue Valley Medical Center after initially trying to put out the blaze herself with a pan of water after she called 9-1-1. But she was up and around this morning seeking help from the Red Cross.

Phone calls have been pouring in from nonprofit groups and individuals who want to provide holiday gifts and necessities for the displaced families, said Tiffany Bactista, occupancy specialist at the housing authority and former on-site manager at the Barnett Townhomes.

To donate items to families displaced by the fire, call 821-2174 or 973-3000.

— Paris Achen

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