Medford police have arrested a man they suspect intentionally started a fire in his motor home New Year’s Day, a blaze that spread to an apartment building and another motor home and displaced 12 people.
James Atto, 64, remained in the Jackson County Jail Wednesday, held on $750,000 bail for three counts of first-degree arson. Police searched for Atto following the fire after witnesses said the resident of the RV where the fire started had fled prior to police arriving.
Atto later turned himself in to police, arriving at the Medford Police Department lobby just after midnight “on his own accord,” according to a police news release.
Motive in the case is still a mystery.
“There are certainly things about this case that we’re still trying to figure out,” said Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau. “And there are some things about this case that do not make sense and probably will never make sense.”
Medford Fire-Rescue, Jackson County Fire District No. 3 and Medford police responded to the fire just before 7 a.m. Tuesday. Police were first on scene to the fire, in the 400 block of West Clark Street, followed shortly by eight city and county agency fire vehicles. Fire was burning in Atto’s RV and had spread to a triplex housing 11 people and another RV with one resident, Medford Emergency Manager Melissa Cano said.
“(The fire) was pretty intense on the initial RV, the one that was the source of the ignition,” Cano said. “Fortunately, when it started spreading up the wall to the actual structure, (firefighters) were already there at that point.”
Firefighters had the blaze under control by 7:12 a.m., Cano said. The flames damaged part of the triplex and displaced all occupants. It’s not known when they will be allowed back in, Cano said. No one was hurt.
Atto, who has a listed address of 125 W. Jackson St. in court records, has no felony convictions in the state of Oregon. He was arraigned in Jackson County Circuit Court Wednesday, but his next court date had not yet been posted.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-776-4468.