Spokane firefighters quickly douse blaze in histori downtown church on Sunday

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Sep. 26—Spokane firefighters quickly extinguished a blaze in a historic downtown church on Sunday afternoon.

Ladders were called in to help put out a fire at 518 W. Third Ave., the current site of the New Community Church. The brick building, completed in 1907, was the former home of the old Central United Methodist Church until 2017.

The fire, confined to the top floors of the church above its "mechanical room," was put out shortly after the first call around 12:30 p.m.

Kevin Longmeier, one of the pastors at the New Community Church, said the congregation had finished services Sunday morning and locked up. Shortly thereafter, a neighbor and volunteer firefighter told him that a downtown church had been reported on fire.

"The fire started on the roof," he said. "But it did not burn all the way through to the attic."

A group of between five and 15 people in the church's basement at the time of the fire were told to evacuate the building, but no injuries were reported, Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said.

Longmeier said those occupants were working to prepare meals as part of a ministry for homeless people in Spokane, and all were able to get out safely.

The church is still assessing the damage from the fire, he said. A hole was opened on the roof and there was extensive water damage upstairs, Longmeier said. They will work with their insurance company to determine whether services can be held in the historic church next week.

The attic space is built with timber, and Longmeier said firefighters told him it was "very, very close to being a catastrophic fire."

New Community Church bought the building in 2017, after the former Central United Methodist Church chose to close its doors.

The original pipe organ and stained glass remain from the building, which is itself a replacement from a wood-frame, white structure the Methodists built downtown that was destroyed by fire.

The church was the home house of worship for Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, the Spokane woman credited with starting the national observance of Father's Day.

"This is a Spokane staple, a very historical building," Schaeffer said.

An investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing.

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