A fire ripped through a Hazel Dell church early Sunday morning, causing an estimated $1.5 million in damage, and investigators with the Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office are asking for any witnesses to come forward with information in the case.
Firefighters were dispatched at 12:39 a.m. to Amazing Grace Baptist Church, 6902 N.E. Hazel Dell Ave., where they found flames spreading through the church’s first floor, second floor and attic, said Todd Iremonger, a battalion chief with Clark County Fire District 6. Nobody was inside the building, he said.
“We had fire burning on the exterior of the building, and smoke was coming out of the gable ends” of the structure, Iremonger said.
Heavy, dark smoke filled the building, so crews exercised caution by attacking the fire from outside, he said. He added that the church’s metal roof made it more difficult to access the fire, which took about 50 minutes to extinguish.
About 30 firefighters and several fire engines responded to the church, including those from Fire District 6 and the Vancouver Fire Department. Crews blocked off Hazel Dell Avenue while they worked.
Isela Espinosa, who lives two houses away from the church, said she woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke and thought her home might be on fire. She went outside and saw smoke billowing from the church and firefighters on the scene.
A utility pole a few feet from the church sent sparks raining down, and eventually the smoke became so hazy she and her family could no longer see the church, they said.
“It was scary,” Espinosa said. “A lot of ashes were coming this way, so I was scared it would start another fire.”
Fire started outside
Officials believe the fire started outside the building on its west side, Susan Anderson, Clark County senior deputy fire marshal, wrote in an email. The west side of the building is the back of the church.
Anderson said the $1.5 million estimate in damage includes structural damage as well as items inside.
Sunday afternoon, a contractor swept up charred debris behind the church. The rear wall of the building’s upper floor was severely damaged in some places, the church’s roof line had slumped, and boards covered many of the building’s windows.
Fire marshals are investigating the cause of the fire. Anderson said anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office at 360-397-2186, ext. 3321.