The Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office is offering a reward for information identifying the person the agency believes started the July 5 fire at the Old Cherry Grove Church in Battle Ground that destroyed the house attached and the yard full of collectables — including hundreds of mannequins.
The Fire Marshal’s Office is offering $10,000 for anyone who can identify the person or vehicle caught on camera around 2 a.m. The fire is still under investigation, but crews said the day of the fire that it appeared someone shot fireworks at the old church and then drove off.
“This thoughtless act cost our community a piece of our local history which can’t be replaced,” said Assistant Fire Marshal Curtis Eavenson. “The property loss is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is fortunate that no injuries occurred to occupants or firefighters.”
Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue was dispatched around 2:24 a.m. to the old Cherry Grove Church in the 24200 block of Northeast 92nd Avenue after a neighbor called to report he’d heard an explosion.
When crews arrived, they found flames in the steeple and attic of the church, according to Fire Chief John Nohr. Crews couldn’t get onto the property or inside the church to extinguish the flames because of heavy clutter in the surrounding yard, including the hundreds of mannequins.
A 200-gallon propane tank next to the church also blocked firefighters as it vented flames and propane for over an hour as pressure built up inside the tank from the heat, according to the fire department.
Ten engines, one ladder truck, four chief officers, four water tenders and one rehab unit responded to the fire from Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue, Clark County Fire District 3 and the Vancouver Fire Department. They called in for a rehab unit because the battle lasted several hours and because the fire began after a long, busy weekend for the firefighters responding to fireworks calls for the Fourth of July, Nohr said.
The county’s Fire Marshal Office asks anyone with information to call 564- 397-3320.