The third suspicious house fire in the past six months destroyed another one of Madras' historic homes late April 2.
Built in 1920, the home, located at 472 S.E. Seventh St., is owned by Aaron McCay, who wasn't home at the time of the fire. The fire was reported by a neighbor at 10:12 p.m.
When Mark Carman, fire marshal for Jefferson County Fire District No. 1, arrived at the scene three minutes later, "The front of the house had a wall of fire," he said.
"Our strong suspicion is that the fire started on the outside and worked its way in," he said, noting that before the fire, people had reported that an argument occurred in the front yard of the house.
"People in the area said that there was a commotion before the fire," Carman said.
"I've ruled out all accidental causes," Carman said. "All indications show me that it was an intentionally set fire."
The 780-square-foot house is on the opposite side of the block from a house at 397 S.E. Sixth St. that burned the evening of Oct. 14, 2007, in a fire believed to have been caused by transients.
Less than a month ago, the oldest house in the Madras area, built by Fredrick Waymire in 1888 and known more recently as the Helen Hering house, burned at around 3:30 a.m. on Feb. 9. That fire was also considered suspicious.
Both the Hering house and the Sixth Street house were unoccupied, and the Sixth and Seventh street houses were for sale.
After the three fires, Carman said, "Yes your suspicion meter goes up."
"There is a cash award available for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person that was responsible for the fire," he said.
Three structure engines and one support vehicle, along with 15 firefighting personnel responded to the fire, which took a little more than an hour and a half to extinguish.
The loss was estimated at $120,000 for the home and $25,000 for the contents, which were insured. Included in the contents was a Yamaha dirt bike, which had been parked in the living room, and was destroyed in the fire, Carman said.
Residents of the house next door, to the south, were asked to leave for a short time because of the smoke. However, he said, "The danger of the fire was never so great as to extend to their residence."