By DAMIAN MANN
Arural west Medford home owned by a local man who died Saturday was almost completely destroyed by a fire Sunday afternoon that started as his family was trying to collect his belongings.
Shocked and tearful members of Randall “Randy” Perkins’ family gathered outside the 1045 South Stage Road house as firefighters got the blaze under control.
Many of the neighbors on the street knew Perkins but expressed surprise as family members informed them that he’d died the day before from a heart attack.
Brian Fish, Medford Fire-Rescue battalion chief, said one half of the house at 1045 South Stage Road, where Perkins lived, was completely destroyed.
The house was divided into two units, but the occupant of the rental escaped unharmed along with his dog, Fish said.
“The family was down here clearing things out and started a fire in the woodstove,” Fish said.
Even though the woodstove is suspicious, fire investigators haven’t determined the cause of the fire yet.
The call came in at 3:14 p.m., and fire crews were on scene in five minutes, calling in four engines, Fish said.
South Stage Road was closed in both directions for more than an hour because fire hydrants were located on the far side of the street.
Fish said some items from the rental side of the house could be salvaged, but the side of the house where Perkins lived was mostly rubble and charred walls. Plastic siding on the outside was melting away from the house.
Fish said no one was injured by the fire.
Kevin Crews, who lived in the rental unit, said he was eating lunch, watching a basketball game, when he heard some commotion outside, unaware that a fire was raging on the other side of the house.
“I came out, and I could see smoke,” said 57-year-old Crews, who had lived in the house for more than two years. “People were yelling at me to get out, get out.”
Crews ran back in to rescue his dog, Shade. “I was just scared to death,” he said.
Crews said Perkins’ daughter appeared to be suffering from smoke inhalation after she attempted to retrieve items from inside the burning house.
“I’m fine, I guess,” said Crews, who also suffered slightly from smoke inhalation. “I have insurance. I have a place to stay.”
Crews said the woodstove in the house had been lit not too long before the fire started.
He said he had a good relationship with Perkins.
“Randy was a most outstanding human being,” he said.
When Crews raced into his house to rescue his dog, a good Samaritan, Mitchell Wright, rushed into the house to help anyone get out.
“It was scary,” said Wright, a 22-year-old Medford wildland firefighter who just happened to be passing by on his way to his girlfriend’s house.
Wright said he wanted to make sure there weren’t any other possible victims inside, running into as many rooms as he possibly could.
“I could hear bullets going off in the next room from the heat,” he said. “That got my adrenalin pumping.”
Wright said he got some smoke inhalation and was a little light-headed, but he said it was worth it to help out.
“I guess I was at the right place at the right time,” he said. “I know how fast smoke inhalation can kill a person.”
Brittney Zigler, a 24-year-old Medford woman, said she was in the back field across the street helping build a go-kart track.
She thought someone was burning yard debris, but then realized that she could smell plastic burning.
She called 911 as she made her way to the street, but found out that someone had already called.
“There was so so much smoke coming out of both ends of the house, then the fire started coming through the windows,” Zigler said.
One family member, who asked not to be identified, said she was driving down South Stage Road to the house to collect some of Perkins’ belongings.
“I saw all this smoke, and said, Hey, that’s my uncle’s house,’ ” she said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.