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Cleanup continues after Medford fuel depot fire

Crews setting oil booms to trap chemicals released in the Medford fuel depot fire.
EPA Region 10
Crews setting oil booms to trap chemicals released in the Medford fuel depot fire.

Environmental agencies are continuing their efforts to clean up a spill of petroleum products into Bear Creek after Tuesday’s three-alarm fire at a fuel depot near downtown Medford.

A “light sheen” of oil has been detected on the Rogue River, near the confluence of Bear Creek, but a spokesperson from the EPA said they don’t expect a significant amount of oil to have entered the river.

“There have been no visible impacts to fish and wildlife,” said Bill Dunbar with EPA Region 10. According to Dunbar there are also currently no concerns about drinking water quality.

The fire at Carson Fuel Pacific Pride destroyed four buildings that housed a handful of businesses, including Sky High Smoke n’ Accessories, La Clinica, Southern Oregon Printing, La Mota Medford and more.

Agencies estimate more than 12,000 gallons of various petroleum products were released during the fire. The majority was mechanical lube oil, as well as diesel, gasoline and kerosene.

There is no current estimate on the volume that flowed into nearby Bear Creek, but agencies including the EPA, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and NEXGEN Logistics, LLC are cleaning up the spill. Contractors have deployed 400 feet of oil absorbent booms on Bear Creek in an attempt to contain the petroleum released in the waterway.

Biologists have been responding to oiled waterfowl in the creek since the fire. Environmental nonprofit Rogue Riverkeeper posted on social media on Friday that they are conducting independent tests for water contamination in Bear Creek.

According to the Medford Police Department on Friday there have been no arrests made in connection with the fire and the cause remains under investigation.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.