Medford Fire inspector John Patterson searches for the cause of a house fire that occurred on Tripp St Thursday. - Jamie Lusch

Fire just the latest setback for hard-hit Medford family

A house fire Thursday afternoon landed James Gunn back where he started — sharing a motel room with his girlfriend and two children.

Gunn did not venture to the charred house on Tripp Street to collect belongings that might have survived the fire. He and his family needed a day away from the scene to collect themselves, he said.

"(This kids) are taking it better than I thought they would," Gunn said. "At first they were pretty upset because they lost all their belongings."

Medford Fire Department officials sifted through the debris of Gunn's Tripp Street home Friday afternoon in search of clues pointing to the source of the blaze.

Medford fire inspector John Patterson said the blaze sparked outside the house near the back door and shot up an outer wall. He ruled the cause of the fire as "accidental."

"It was not maliciously set," he said. "I am not going to comment on what might have happened to start the fire."

Patterson poked along the dirt near the back door looking for the nozzle of a gasoline jug found in the grass behind the house. The jug was surrounded by police tape. Next to it was an empty box of matches.

As the heat intensified outside the home, an attic vent began sucking the fire into the top story, which included the kids' bedrooms.

Gunn said his 7-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter lost all of their clothes. The American Red Cross gave the family Wal-Mart vouchers to make up for some of the loss.

Gunn, who is unemployed after being laid off from Timber Products last year, was thankful for the Red Cross' help, but wondered when his luck would take a turn for the better.

A 13-year veteran of timber mills, Gunn has had trouble finding jobs that could support his family. They lost their home to foreclosure four months ago and took up residence in a hotel until he borrowed money from his stepmother. He used it to pay the first month's rent on the Tripp Street home.

Now, the family is back in a motel, waiting to take the next step.

"I was starting to make a good living at the mill, starting to get ahead on my bills when the layoff happened and now this," Gunn said.

Firefighters managed to cover some appliances with tarps shortly after the fire started, saving a few of the family's more expensive belongings.

The family, which did not have renters' insurance, lost an estimated $15,000 in personal items. The cost of the home damage was not available, though Patterson said when fires reach roofs most insurers will declare a home a loss.

"I feel for the guy," Patterson said. "This is another sad story of our times."

Donations of food and clothes for the family can be made through the Red Cross. The organization can be reached at 541-779-3773.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail

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