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Photo courtesy Medford Fire-Rescue

Gas thief sets truck aflame

A fire that destroyed a newer F-150 pickup truck parked at a Medford auto parts store last weekend likely started when someone attempted to drill into the vehicle’s gas tank and steal fuel, fire officials said.

The blaze at the AutoZone, 3555 Crater Lake Highway, was reported at 2:10 a.m. Sunday by someone who had been driving by and spotted the flames.

“(They) said it was kind of small when they first saw it,” said Medford Fire-Rescue Deputy Fire Marshal Tanner Fairrington, adding that several more 911 calls about the flames followed.

Engine crews arrived six minutes later to find the truck aflame. Crews had the flames out in a matter of minutes, expending more than 560 gallons of water contained in one of the engine’s 750-gallon tanks “which is quite a bit,” Fairrington said.

The fire started “very close” to the fuel tank, Fairrington said, adding that there was a gasoline stain on the concrete nearby.

“It seems like the fire was connected to draining the tank,” he said.

An AutoZone employee said the truck, a rental vehicle, was a temporary replacement for two other business vehicles used to deliver parts, because their gas tanks also had been drained in past thefts.

AutoZone officials were not immediately available for comment.

The vehicle was a total loss, with some heat generated by the fire causing damage to the business exterior, Fairrington said. No one was injured “that we know of,” he said.

Thieves punching holes in gas tanks to steal gas has become a common crime, though a few fires have been started by the practice. To date for 2018, there have been 46 gas tank-related theft or vandalism incidents in the city, according to police.

“Obviously there’s a huge danger to it,” said Medford police Lt. Justin Ivens. “This is a huge concern to us.”

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call Medford Fire-Rescue at 541-774-2300 or Medford police at 541-774-2200. The case number is 18-19914.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com or at 541-776-4468. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanpfeil.

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