Medford, Ore. — Since the beginning of July, twenty-seven of forty-one fires have been labeled as human caused. Both police and fire investigators say transients may be behind a number of them, but the majority of them are still unsolved.
“There’s not enough evidence to hold anybody,” Medford Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Greg Klienberg said. “People don’t understand how quickly a fire can spread with embers, or just the flames too close to the dead vegetation.”
Twenty-seven fires in the last two months are being investigated as human caused. Authorities said most of them were likely started by transients.
During one week in July alone, firefighters put out eight different fires along Bear Creek Greenway. It’s a problem the Medford Police Department is trying to curb with weekly sweeps of the area.
“It’s illegal to be camping down there on the Greenway, for obvious reasons, because of the trash, because fires, things like that,” Lieutenant Kevin Walruff said. “We have to use the laws that we have and the municipal codes we have to hold them accountable.”
Those laws mean even if a fire is human caused, it may only result in a ticket. Charges can range from reckless burning to arson. It’s only then that they would go to jail.
“If someone is doing this intentionally, they deserve to be in jail,” Lt. Walruff said.
Of the 41 fires since July, 14 of them were on the Greenway. Eight of those are considered arson, and are still under investigation.