The 112-year-old former church that burned late Friday night at Adams Street and Broadway Avenue near downtown Spokane was full of history, not to mention hundreds of VHS copies of a cheesy, campy B-movie called “The Ghosting” that was filmed inside the church 25 years ago.
Flames were shooting through the roof when firefighters arrived shortly before 8:30 p.m. after getting a report of a grass fire. Dozens of firefighters responded and were soon trying to put out the stubborn flames with streams of water from at least six hoses.
Over the course of several hours, the roof collapsed and flames gutted most areas of the interior of the building.
On Saturday, Spokane Fire Department Fire Marshal Michael Miller was on scene surveying the rubble. One of two chimneys left standing without any visible support was leaning ominously, and a remaining tall wall was buckling.
“That’s a lot of hazards,” Miller said.
Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said the fire started outside the building on the south side in a well-hidden corner that had signs of “obvious long-term transient use.” There were many tea candle bases and cigarette butts found in the area. The fire quickly spread up the walls into the attic, Schaeffer said.
The fire is being classified as accidental.
On Saturday, building owner Walt Hefner sat inside a car parked in the shade where he had a view of his destroyed building.
“It wasn’t a church when I bought it,” he said. “It was empty.”
The building was the former home of the Broadway Baptist Church. The congregation left the building in 1982 for a new location on Lincoln Road and changed their name to Shiloh Hills Baptist Church.
Hefner bought the building shortly after he sold the Starlight Drive-In movie theater north of town for $1 million. Instead of investing the money, he bought the vacant church and film equipment so he could make his own movie. It has been described as cheesy and campy – and a flop. Still, the film has achieved quasi-cult status over the years and has its share of fans.
With low demand for the movie, however, Hefner was left with hundreds of copies. Those, along with his camera equipment, were in the basement of the old church.
Hefner said he didn’t think he would be able to save anything since the building has been deemed a hazard and will be torn down.
“It may go down today,” he said. “Chances are anything that’s in there will go down with it.”
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