Firefighters rescue four children in Medford apartment fire

MEDFORD, Ore. – Firefighters are detailing the circumstances surrounding a dramatic apartment fire in Medford Friday morning.

Medford Fire-Rescue said at about 5:30 a.m. they responded to a reported fire at Cedar Tree Apartments on East Barnett Road. When crews arrived, they saw flames through apartment windows and made the callout for additional resources.

“We had not just additional units, from our company, but also Jackson Fire District 5, Jacksonville, all arrived to assist,” Melissa Cano, Emergency Manager, said.

One unit on the second story had flames and smoke coming from the window and doors, with the fire quickly spreading to a neighboring apartment unit on the same floor. The stairwell for both units were blocked by the fire, and a woman was yelling for help getting her two children out.

While firefighters worked to make it to the doorway, a man who was in the same apartment unit tossed his young children, a 2-year-old and 9-month-old, down to firefighters. He then jumped from the balcony, injuring his knee.

Finally, crews were able to get to the doorway of the unit, allowing the woman to escape as firefighters entered the unit in search of the two remaining children.

“The fire was so bad that you couldn’t even break through the door or the fire was going to back draft on you,” Aaron Dolph, resident and relative of the woman with two children, said.

By feeling around the room, firefighters found a 3-year-old girl who was crying under a bed and a 5-year-old girl unconscious on a top bunk. Both were taken out of the building and transported to the hospital. The 3-year-old was treated locally for smoke inhalation, while the 5-year-old was eventually taken to Portland to be treated for third degree burns on her legs and feet.

“My niece is badly burnt,50 to 55 percent of her body has third degree burns,” Dolph said.

Everyone else who was hospitalized due to the fire has since been released.

Within fifteen minutes, the fire was knocked down, with damage limited to the single building.

A bus from the Rogue Valley Transportation District assisted by allowing people affected by the fire on board so they could stay warm while they waited to see if they could re-enter their homes.

While fighting the fire, a portion of East Barnett Road was blocked off. This was done not only to help emergency vehicles but to assist in the search for a woman who was living in the apartment where the fire started because she couldn’t be found.

It was later discovered the woman, identified as Tonya Kaylee Johnson, was struck by a vehicle mere hours before the fire started while trying to cross South Pacific Highway at Lowery Lane. She remains hospitalized in an intensive care unit.

Firefighters say the apartment did not have working smoke alarms. They also said any potential connection between Johnson and the fire remains under investigation. A cause of the fire has not yet been established.

A GoFundMe has been created for the 5 year old girl and her sister.

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