Pacific Pride Fire Recap: The Events, Aftermath, and Arrest of an Arson Attack in Medford

Image Credit Steven McMahan

On the night of Tuesday, April 12th at roughly 9:30 PM, a fire broke out at Pacific Pride in downtown Medford, Oregon. Pacific Pride is a gas station located at 936 S. Central Avenue in Medford. The fire quickly spread, and those nearby could hear the explosion. Authorities rapidly rushed to the scene. At least four tanks had exploded, which caused the fire to spread to other buildings on the same lane. By midnight, multiple fires engulfed the same street. Fire crews spent a good portion of the night fighting these fires, and police quickly closed off the road. There are no injuries to the report due to the quick actions of the Medford Police Department and Fire Fighters.

However, as a result of this fire, at least several businesses and buildings were destroyed or damaged. These buildings are Carson Fuel Pacific Pride, General Equipment / Hotsy Inc, La Clinica, La Mota Medford, Sky High Smoke n’ Accessories, Southern Oregon Printing, and Pacific Pride. Nearby residents at the Econolodge also experienced distress from the fire due to being survivors of the Almeda Fire who are still looking for their homes. While they are safe, the fact they had to worry about losing their home again just a year and a half after the Alameda fire is something that no one should ever go through. In addition, the EPA is worried about the damage this can do to local wildlife. There have been birds spotted covered in oil, and with oil spilled everywhere, they are worried that it could get into the Bear Creek stream and hurt the fish who reside there. International Bird Rescue has taken Canada geese and mallard ducks covered in oil to clean and heal them. If you see any wildlife covered in oil, do not pick them yourself; instead, call the trained wildlife rehabilitation experts at 707-689-3944. 

Image Credit Dakota Runyon-Trapp

The roads where the fire had taken place were closed for several days for safety reasons and to give clean-up crews the space. RVTD even had to temporarily change the routes for route ten and the 1X road to drive past. As of right now, clean-up crews are hard at work cleaning up the scene, and most of the streets, except the right line on central avenue, have reopened.

They visited the site where the fire took place on Saturday, April 23rd. There was a lot of damage this fire had caused; a few buildings nearby were damaged entirely, to the point that tearing them down is safer than repairing them. In addition, parts of the sidewalk facing Pacific Fire and other buildings are inaccessible due to the oil spills. Right now, it appears that the focus is just cleaning up those oil spills; chances are, by summer, the city of Medford will start to see the buildings getting torn down. Some businesses located in that area are not affected by the damage, such as Sky High Smoke. However, Sky High Smoke, only a couple of buildings down from the fire, had to change their door to the backdoor to enter as the damage done to the roof and clean-ups have blocked off their main entrance.

Image Credit Dakota Runyon-Trapp

The Siskiyou reached out to a Steven McMalan who works at the Abby’s Pizza in the area and provided a comment on the tragedy: “[Neither] My coworkers nor I heard the initial explosion(s), so we didn’t realize anything was happening until someone knocked on the door and pointed to it. My mind immediately went to the Almeda fire and the stark contrast of being so close. The fire started right as we closed, but there were always many chores to do afterward. We kept working but ultimately had to stop and pack up due to loss of power.”

On Friday, April 22. Medford, PD, had announced there was an arrest during a criminal investigation over the fire. John Charles Salmons, age 49, has been arrested on charges of first-degree arson, six counts of first-degree criminal mischief, and reckless endangering. Furthermore, this is not Salmons’s first run-in with the law regarding arson. In August 2021, Salmon was arrested on arson charges in August of 2021 and was on probation. Police used CCTV footage of Salmons on the scene night to link him to the crime. Currently, Salmon is in jail and with no bail granted; if you have any information to help the police with this case, the number is 541-770-4783.

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