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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

South Hill church ‘still focused on our community’ as months of repairs are expected after fire

The Spokane Fire Department responded to a fire on Sunday at Bethany Presbyterian on Spokane’s South Hill.  (Sydney Brown / The Spokesman-Review)

A South Hill church sustained heavy damage from a fire in its sanctuary Sunday and repairs are estimated to take six to eight months, the Rev. Heather Tadlock of Bethany Presbyterian Church said.

Tadlock said the congregation will meet virtually the next two Sundays (Jan. 9 and 16) on the church’s Facebook page, which is “Bethany Presbyterian Church Spokane.” Beyond that, Tadlock said it’s unclear where and how the services will be conducted.

Tadlock said she and church members love the building, which is on the corner of South Ray Street and East 27th Avenue, but the church is about the people, not the structure.

“We are still loving our neighbors,” Tadlock said. “We are still worshipping together. We are still focused on our community, and so that continues no matter what the circumstance.”

City of Spokane firefighters and Spokane County Fire District 8 responded to the blaze about 4 p.m., which Tadlock said was about four hours after the church’s Sunday service.

When firefighters arrived, smoke could be seen pouring from the roofline across the entire length of the building, according to a Spokane Fire Department news release. Firefighters could see heat and smoke on the first floor.

Crews determined there was a well-involved fire in the basement.

More Spokane firefighters responded, along with a Spokane Valley Fire Department engine, the release said. The fire was extinguished shortly afterward and was confined to the sanctuary. The church’s website said firefighters extinguished the blaze around 7 p.m. Sunday.

No injuries were reported.

Investigators later determined the cause of the fire was an electrical short on the stage in the sanctuary, the release said.

There was no fire alarm system in the church, and firefighters said bystanders reporting the smoke prevented the damage from being “catastrophic.”

The release said there was heavy smoke and water damage.

Tadlock said the sanctuary is rather large and “will need to be taken down to studs” as a result of the fire.

“You walk into the building and your eyes water,” Tadlock said. “It’s difficult to breathe even in areas of the building that aren’t right next to the sanctuary.”

Tadlock said the building is insured, and she anticipates insurance will cover the costs of rebuilding.

The process of cleaning the water and smoke damage has already started, the church’s website said.