Tacoma’s United Lutheran Church sustained heavy damage in a fire Sunday night, and the city Fire Department announced Monday the cause was suspicious.
A church building, located in the 1200 block of South 76th Street, was reported on fire at 8:30 p.m., according to Tacoma Fire Department spokesman Joe Meinecke.
The first arriving crews found flames and smoke coming from the church’s fellowship hall, next to the main sanctuary. Firefighters were forced to enter the attic space to extinguish the fire.
“I got here at 8:30 and it was well underway,” said the church’s pastor, Mary Corning Sanders. “There were flames coming out of the roof.”
Investigators were on the scene of the fire Monday afternoon, Meinecke said.
“TFD investigators have determined that the cause of this fire is suspicious and the incident has been turned over to Tacoma Police Department for further criminal investigation,” the Fire Department tweeted Monday afternoon.
There were no injuries. The church sustained $400,000 in damage to its building and contents, Meinecke said.
On Monday afternoon, the fellowship hall was little more than blackened walls and twisted furniture. Piles of melted glass lay on the ground near a distinct V-shaped burn on an outside wall
Sanders said that’s where the fire started.
“It seems to have been set, although the word ‘arson’ was not used by the fire inspector,” she said.
Two other adjacent rooms were also destroyed. The sanctuary was not involved but may have sustained some smoke damage, Sanders said.
The church’s congregation has been worshipping online, due to COVID-19 restrictions. That will continue, Sanders said, along with “prayer and good thoughts” following the fire.