In a little over two weeks, a spate of five fires have occurred in and around Cottage Grove, raising concerns and speculation among residents as to the cause of the blazes.
“South Lane County Fire and Rescue (SLCFR) averages about 36 structure-type fires in the course of a year,” said SLCFR Division Chief Joe Raade. “So, it averages out to about three a month.”
Structure fires can vary, from room and contents fires to the full loss of a structure.
The sudden spike in structure fires has not gone unnoticed.
“That is definitely concerning to us,” Raade said. “We have dug into all of these fires — all five of them.”
Two of the fires have occurred on Main Street and the others on Seventh Street, Tenth Street and Birch Avenue.
Three of the fires’ causes have been positively identified.
“They are unfortunate accidents,” said Raade. “Two of them are electrical in nature.”
Another was the result of an unattended candle.
“We see both of those — electrical and open flame accidents — throughout the year,” Raade said. “They’re probably some our most common causes of fire.”
Regarding the other two fires, “They’re currently being investigated further,” said Raade.
In response to speculation occurring on social media that an arsonist may be loose, Raade said, “There’s no connection between the fires.”
Conclusions to the investigations are expected within the next week or two.
The severity of the five fires were mixed. Raade predicted that two looked to be total losses, but no serious injuries or deaths resulted from the emergencies.
“I know we did have some people get a little bit of smoke exposure, but none of them sought any further care,” said Raade.
The presence of Deputy State Fire Marshal Kristina Deschaine has also roused public speculation on social media that an arson investigation is underway by the state fire marshal’s office.
Raade said that Deschaine’s presence was not out of the ordinary.
“She’s an ally of ours that we see probably once or twice a week, even when we don’t have fires,” said Raade. “It is routine for us to include the fire marshal’s office in investigations. It does not mean that we’re suspecting that there’s an arsonist. It’s one of the first calls we make when we get a fire put out.”
In light of the fire trend, Raade encouraged people to exercise caution with their fire risks at home.
“If people are choosing to use open flames, make sure that you’re doing that in a safe manner,” he said. “If people have homes that may not have updated wiring, I’d encourage that when the chance exists to have their wiring inspected or replaced.”
Raade praised the responses of SLCFR to cover all emergencies, especially during Saturday morning’s deluge of events.
“I had four alarms going off in about a 10-minute period,” Raade said.
Two medical emergencies, a grass fire and the structure fire on Main Street enveloped emergency responders’ morning.
“We put life in front of property,” he said. “Sometimes, and it’s not very often, we have to make the decision of running to someone who’s having a life or death medical emergency or going to a property emergency. But we’ve been able to meet every emergency as they’ve come so far.”