Fire crews responded to a structure fire that spread to surrounding vegetation Friday night.
Spokane deputy fire chief Robert Ladd said crews arrived in the vicinity of Adams Street and Broadway Avenue a little before 8:30 p.m. after receiving reports of a grass fire. Upon arrival, they saw flames licking up through the roof of a vacant church – identified as the former Broadway Baptist Church – and immediately called in reinforcements.
Sixty firefighters from Spokane Fire, Spokane Valley Fire and Fire District 8 were soon on the scene, attacking the blazing building with jets of water and spraying the roof from elevated ladders. Smoke and flames billowing up against the night sky were at times visible from downtown Spokane.
By 9:45 p.m., the roof had collapsed and some of the fire had died down, but the structure was still too hazardous to enter, Ladd said. The building was at that point a “shell,” he said.
Fire crews expected to continue to work on the building throughout the night. The cause of the fire was unknown.
No casualties were reported.
The crews’ initial response was complicated by an earlier fire in Spokane Valley, Ladd said. Crews and resources had to quickly be diverted to the West Central neighborhood.
A website belonging to the Shiloh Hills Baptist congregation identifies the building as the former Broadway Baptist Church, its construction completed in 1902.
The building was expanded to accommodate its growing congregation in 1910, with the east wall of the church expanded several feet. Services at the time were conducted primarily in Swedish, according to the website.
A second expansion, of a Sunday school wing and pastor’s study, was completed in 1929.
As the church’s congregation continued to expand through the decades of the 20th century, a basement room – requiring the excavation of the “solid rock” foundation underpinning the structure – was added in 1944.
In the 1970s, prompted by changes to the neighborhood and the age of the original structure, the church’s leadership began considering a new location for the congregation. In 1982, a new site was acquired in north Spokane. The last service held in the original structure was May 16, 1982.
Ladd said the last registered owner of the building and surrounding plot was an investment group.
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