A Medford Firefighter battles a grass fire that neighbors say was started by a truck throwing sparks on Lozier Lane in Medford Saturday. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

West Medford neighbors battle 30 small fires started by sparks from a pickup

Awest Medford neighborhood sprang into action Saturday afternoon as a truck spewing sparks from its exhaust started more than 30 small fires along three roads, police said.

Emergency dispatchers were hit with several calls at around 1:46 p.m. from people living along Lozier Lane who said their neighborhood was dotted with more than an dozen small grass fires.

Medford police Sgt. Brent Mak rushed to the scene and was shocked at what he saw.

"There must have been 50 citizens out with hoses, buckets and shovels out there fighting those fires," Mak said. "The first officer on the scene said there were fires as far as he could see on Lozier and Stewart."

The pickup drove along Lozier Lane and turned onto Stewart Avenue and then onto Hull Road, where it stopped, Mak said.

"We tracked fires along the path he drove," Mak said. "It was like following a trail."

Clinton and Mary Partsafas were returning to their home on Lozier Lane after spending the morning at yard sales. When they turned onto Lozier they saw emergency vehicles and smoke near their home.

"It was pretty scary thinking that your house could be near that," Clinton Partsafas said. "We drove in and saw that the property right next to us had burned."

The couple doused the charred fence and grass near their home with a garden hose.

An evergreen tree in the ditch adjacent to their property was blackened. The flames from the tree damaged a power line drooping above the ditch.

In all, approximately 30 fires were sparked long the three roads. The flames damaged two utility boxes, three utility poles and several fences, Mak said.

Medford Fire Department Battalion Chief Brian Fish said the likely culprit was a fault catalytic converter under the pickup. The converter failed and sent sparks flying from the exhaust pipe.

The largest fire was approximately 100 feet by 30 feet, Fish said.

Loyd Wilson, whose ditch and fence was burned on Lozier Lane, said the weather has him on edge.

"I was in my house when a cop knocked on my door and said I have a fire," Wilson said. "It scared me. All this grass around here and it being this hot, it all can go up quick."

Medford fire sounded a second alarm to keep the flames from reaching houses along the roads. They were assisted by Jackson County Fire District 5 and Oregon Department of Forestry personnel.

Mak did not have the pickup driver's name available. He said the man works for a landscaping company and most likely would not be cited for starting the fires.

"We don't think he meant to start the fires," Mak said. "But he probably will have to pay for the damage, or at least his insurance will."

Mak said that area of west Medford has several large weed-grown lots that are perfect for sparking large grass fires within city limits.

"Everyone worked well as a team out there: police, fire and the citizens," Mak said. "This could have been bad. There were a lot of homes within 20 feet of the flames."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email

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