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Fire Damages Valley Church; Pipe-Thawing Heater Blamed

Members of Grace Harvest Fellowship church prayed Sunday evening in an unusual sanctuary - a snow-covered church parking lot.

Arriving members of the Spokane Valley church spotted smoke and flames coming from the roof.

While firefighters battled the fire, church members prayed that their metal-framed building at 24th and Sullivan would be spared.

But “we realize this is just a building,” said Pastor Steve Reed, one of almost 40 people inside the church when the fire started.

“As long as everyone was OK, that’s all that counts.”

Everyone was fine despite the scare. A group of young teenagers were practicing mime routines inside the church when they smelled smoke about 4:45 p.m.

“All of a sudden, the smoke alarm went off,” said Aimee Melvin, 12. “We all had to rush to get our shoes on and get outside. It was so scary.”

The blaze, which did only minor damage, was caused by a space heater being used to thaw out pipes, investigators said.

Eight engines were used to knock out the fire, which took about 40 minutes.

Firefighters peeled back the metal roof to prevent the fire from spreading throughout the roof’s wooden supports and insulation.

“When a fire’s between the roof and the ceiling, you don’t know where it can go,” Valley Fire Chief Pat Humphries said. “It’s like little fingers, creeping all over.”

The church canceled Sunday night services and school today for its 150 students.

, DataTimes