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Firefighters Caught Children Tossed from Burning Apartment Building

Six people were taken to the hospital after a fire at the Cedar Tree Apartments in Medford on Friday morning. Now police say that a woman hospitalized after being struck by a car on Thursday lived at the same apartment.

Posted: Nov 2, 2018 6:55 AM
Updated: Nov 2, 2018 6:37 PM


UPDATE: The early-morning apartment fire that ended with six people hospitalized was full of narrow escapes and one strange mystery, according to an account from Medford Fire-Rescue (MFR).

When firefighters began to arrive at the Cedar Tree Apartments on Barnett Road just after 5:30 a.m., they found a second-story unit engulfed in flames — with billowing smoke issuing from the outer window and door. The fire quickly spread to the next unit on the same floor, blocking the stairwell for both units.

A woman inside the second unit called for help to get her children out of the burning apartment. While firefighters tried to cool down the doorway to make an entry point, an engine arrived with ladders to reach the upstairs balcony.

A man in the same apartment grabbed their 2.5-year-old and 9-month-old sons and tossed the children down to firefighters waiting below. Both children were spirited away to a "safe zone." The man jumped from the balcony to the ground, "injuring his knee" according to MFR.

At the same time, firefighters continued to work on the doorway, knocking down enough of the flames to enter the apartment. They encountered thick smoke and flames inside, and the woman told them that there were two more children still inside the unit before she evacuated.

The firefighters were forced to feel their way into a closed bedroom with no visibility — finding a "3-year-old girl crouched and crying under the bed and a 5-year-old girl, unconscious, on a top bunk bed," according to MFR.

All four of the children and the two adults were brought to Asante Regional Medical Center for treatment, but the 5-year-old girl had to be flown to a Portland hospital via Mercy Flights "for extensive burns on her legs and feet." MFR said that the 3-year-old is still being treated for smoke inhalation locally, while all the others have since been discharged.

Meanwhile, Police and firefighters were looking for a missing person believed to have been in the apartment where the fire originated — later identified as Tonya Johnson, the woman who was struck by a vehicle the night before.

"Residents of the apartment complex believed she was inside. Medford Fire-Rescue performed multiple searches of the burning unit and could not locate anyone," MFR said. Authorities would make the connection later on Friday morning.

(Updated 11/2/18 at 3:20 p.m.)

UPDATE: A Medford woman who was struck and seriously injured by a vehicle on Thursday night appears to have a direct link to the apartment that burned early Friday morning, according to the Medford Police Department (MPD).

Around 9 p.m., officers from MPD and firefighters from the Medford Fire Department responded to reports of a crash involving a pedestrian on South Pacific Highway near the Grange Co-op at Lowery Lane. Investigators believe that a woman entered the roadway, crossing westbound and was struck by a vehicle in the far-right northbound lane of South Pacific Hwy.

The woman was rushed to a local hospital for the treatment of serious injuries caused by the crash. The driver stayed at the scene and cooperated with investigators, according to MPD.

South Pacific Hwy was shut down and diverted for about 3 hours while the scene was investigated.

At the time of the crash, the woman was unidentified. Now MPD says that she is 51-year-old Tonya Kaylee Johnson — a resident of 2300 E Barnett Road #50, where a fire broke out Friday morning.

MPD says that they do not have an update on the condition of the six people who were hospitalized from the fire at the Cedar Tree Apartments. Detectives are working closely with fire investigators, and the case remains under investigation.

(Updated 11/2/18 at 9:20 a.m.)

INITIAL REPORT: Medford Police say six people are in the hospital after a fire started at Cedar Tree Apartments in Medford. The fire started around 5:35 am this morning. Four children and two adults have been taken to the hospital. 

The apartment is located at E Barnett Road near Ellendale Drive. Medford Police say power has been shut off at the complex. A full damage assessment has to happen before people can return. 

Police are asking everyone to avoid the area as fire crews investigate how this started.

There are traffic impacts this morning. ODOT says commuters should expect delays at I-5 Exit 27. They say to watch for back-ups at the interchange, and consider alternate routes.

Rogue Valley Transit District is providing a warm place for evacuees to wait.  The American Red Cross has also been called to assist families. 

NewsWatch12 is on the scene of this fire talking to officials and witnesses. This is a developing story and we will continue to update this post as we get more information. 

[Video by Deon Banks]

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