Grease fire was the likely cause of blaze that destroyed home

Grease from a pan of cooking potatoes is the likely culprit in a three-alarm fire that destroyed a rural home outside Ashland Wednesday and drew fire crews from five area agencies.

"After talking with the occupants and doing a preliminary investigation, it appears it started in the kitchen area downstairs," said Dan Marshall, Jackson County Fire District No. 5 chief.

Fire crews said a man — his name was not available, but he was identified as the son of the homeowners — was downstairs cooking the potatoes when the grease apparently ignited and spread to a nearby wall. The man also had some butane fuel nearby, which he was using to fill lighters. Fire officials said it could have contributed to the fire's rapid spread.

The home belongs to Bill and Cate Yocum, organic farmers who have lived in the home since 1993. The Yocums and their son all made it out of the home safely.

Fire crews from Jackson County fire districts 5 and 3, Medford, Ashland and Jacksonville responded to the fire late Wednesday morning. By the time the first crews arrived, the 3,500-square-foot, two-story home was fully involved and the smoke pouring off the house was visible from miles away. The blaze drew seven engines, four water tenders and about 40 firefighters to the scene. The driveway's length and difficult access to water complicated extinguishing efforts, officials said.

A blaze reignited on the collapsed structure Thursday hours after crews extinguished the initial fire.

Crews responded to the reignited fire at around 3 a.m. Thursday. Marshall said winds probably fueled some of the smoldering material, causing it to reignite.

"We ended up getting phone calls from several neighbors," Marshall said.

One engine and two water tenders responded to the scene and got the rekindled flames under control quickly. No one was hurt.

"It didn't cause any more damage other than burning up the remaining fuel," Marshall said.

One engine remained on scene, but the majority of crew members left at about 7 a.m. Marshall said a reignition was not surprising, given the home's exposure to winds on a hillside.

"The fire starting back up is fairly typical," he said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at

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