By Mandy Valencia
A fire that destroyed a two-story house in the 5000 block of West Griffin Creek Road on Wednesday, Nov. 21, is being investigated as arson, authorities have confirmed.
Oregon State Police arson and explosives investigator Gaylon Couch said that OSP has taken over the investigation.
Neighbors reported the fire at about 10:30 a.m. Nov. 21, saying they heard a large explosion and a black plume of smoke rising from the house, which sits high on a ridge, making the smoke visible from Medford and the surrounding areas.
Because early reports did not contain the address of the rural house, Medford Fire-Rescue and Applegate Valley Fire District responded, driving up several long, steep driveways while attempting to find the source of the smoke.
Homeowners Paul and Jennifer Newcombe and their four children were not home at the time of the fire, which burned so hot and fast that insurance adjusters ruled the house a total loss.
According to Newcombe, investigators believe the fire started in the living room or downstairs play room.
“The inside of the house looks like there was an explosion,” said Newcombe, “and investigators were asking me if we start our wood stove with a gas can.”
For now the family is staying in a two-bedroom hotel room in Medford. Friends and family have pitched in to provide shoes and clothes for the children.
“I have no idea what we’ll do for Christmas,” said Newcombe.
The Newcombes were married at their residence six years ago, and have been making trips to the property frequently to care for their horses, they said.
Jennifer Newcombe said she doesn’t know of anyone who would want to harm her or her family, but she said one of her friends brought a man to the house a few weeks ago who had a criminal past, and she said she did not want him in her home.
“I asked her not to bring him to our house, but she did anyway,” said Newcombe. “He seemed to be looking around our house a lot, sort of casing the place.”
Newcombe said she suspects that the man may have burglarized the house and then set it on fire to cover up the crime.
“I just want closure and justice,” said Newcombe. “I haven’t spoken to my friend. I don’t want anything to do with her.”
Investigators have not released any details about the case, saying the investigation will continue.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.