Police follow refrigerator lead on Mr. Thom's fire

Investigators are looking closely at a faulty refrigerator near his back deck that may have sparked Thursday's fire that destroyed Mr. Thom's salon.

Thom Martin, who ran his salon and bed and breakfast businesses out of the sprawling home on South Stage Road, immediately pointed out a display refrigerator with a glass front that he recently purchased as the culprit, said Medford Fire Department Inspector John Patterson.

"Because he was so adamant about the fire's origin, we have to take this seriously," Patterson said.

Engineers from Portland could arrive at the ruins Monday morning to take a look at what's left of the refrigerator in order to make their determination, Patterson said.

"We need to find out if the refrigerator is a victim or cause of the fire," Patterson said.

While the engineers are in the area they also will take a look at five other refrigerators in the back deck area, Patterson said.

"Who knows, it could have been one of the other ones," he said.

Patterson said he is not ready to say the refrigerators were responsible for the blaze, which levelled the home in little more than an hour.

"This is just a part of the overall investigation," Patterson said. "We will be looking at other possible sources."

Martin bought the South Stage property in 1999 and moved four historic homes to the site to create a 5,962-square-foot mansion crammed with antiques and memorabilia from his career styling celebrities across the country.

County records list the real market value of the property at $930,110. Investigators said the home was insured for $4 million.

This is the second large fire reported at the property. In December 1999 a blaze destroyed a house that Martin had moved there with plans to incorporate it into the cluster of homes united into a single structure.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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