Fire guts Fifth Street home

Since moving to Ashland, Sharon Harris admired the classy Victorian home on Fifth Street every day on her way to yoga.

Sure, it needed some serious work to fix the roof and shabby interior, but Harris felt drawn to the property.

Eventually she decided to take the plunge and placed a bid on the home, which sits in a residential neighborhood just north of Ashland's Siskiyou Boulevard. Her bid went through and she was planning on moving into the garage on the property while she spent the next few years fixing up the Victorian.

Those plans took a major hit Thursday after fire ripped through the vacant home. Flames gutted the 1,300-square-foot structure and chewed through the roof.

"It had so much character," Harris said, as Ashland Fire & Rescue firefighters doused the home with water and cut holes in the siding with chain saws.

Battalion Chief Chris Chambers said the cause of the blaze remains under investigation. It is not known where the fire started, however, it might have been burning inside the home for some time before anyone made the call to authorities.

"When the first crews arrived, flames were seen shooting out of the windows," Chambers said.

A second alarm was sounded, bringing crew engines from nearby communities. Fifth Street was shut down to traffic as firefighters soaked the structure.

The fire proved stubborn, especially in the attic area where flames slowly reappeared after it seemed the fire was out. A chain saw-wielding firefighter scaled a ladder to slice a hole in the dormer facing Fifth Street.

"Oh no, not the dormer," Harris said. "That breaks my heart."

Harris will retain ownership of the home. She is determined as ever to turn what the fire didn't wreck into her dream home.

"I just need to figure out what's salvageable," she said.

A working house fire in a tightly-packed residential neighborhood is an obvious concern for fire crews, Chambers said.

"You don't want the fire spreading to adjacent homes," he said. "And that could easily happen in a neighborhood like this."

People in Halloween costumes gathered on the sidewalk to snap cell phone pictures of the grey smoke pouring from the roof.

Chambers expected crews to remain on scene for several hours to monitor the structure and conduct the investigation.

"One good thing here is no one was displaced by this fire," Chambers said.

Acquaintances of Harris approached her with hugs of condolence as she watched her dream home charred by flames.

"I'm going to keep this house," she said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email

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