Two teens arrested in Tualatin church fire, face arson charges

Two teens arrested in Tualatin church fire, face arson charges »Play Video
Flames shoot from the church early Monday morning. (Photo courtesy Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue)

TUALATIN, Ore. – Police have arrested two 13-year-old boys in connection with a fire at a church early Monday morning.

Firefighters battled the stubborn 3-alarm fire at the Living Savior Lutheran Church on S.W. Boones Ferry Road and S.W. Sagert.  Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue crews arrived at about 3:20 a.m. and said they found heavy fire and smoke coming from the church building.

No one was hurt but the church and a preschool were badly damaged.

The boys face burglary and arson charges and were taken to the Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Center, police said.

Police say they were able to develop a lead in the case based on information from a concerned citizen.

The boys are from Tualatin. Police say they are friends and don't live far from the church.

As the fire progressed, firefighters said they had to pull back from battling the blaze from inside the church because they were concerned the building might collapse.

Firefighters used ladder trucks to spray water at the fire, which continued to flare up through the morning.

"It's pretty devastating," said parishioner Tim Mooney. "The congregation started pretty small and we've grown quite a bit and just recently added a sanctuary."

Mooney said he has been attending the church for more than 30 years.

Fire crews from the Lake Oswego Fire department and Portland Fire and Rescue joined the fight as the fire rose to 3 alarms. A total of 60 firefighters helped put out the fire.

"Several of our firefighters attend church here at Living Savior and everyone on scene today worked tirelessly to stop the flames from spreading," said TVF&R spokesman Brian Barker. "Our hearts go out to the members of the congregation here. We're glad no one was hurt, but we know this is a special place and this is a difficult time for the congregation."

Laura Garcia said she watched the fire burn from the back yard of her home. "We actually felt the warmth of the flames, and it was really intense," Garcia said.

Pastor Nathan Brant said he was relieved that nobody was hurt.

"I said this before, I'm not doing any funerals, so it's a good day yet," he said. "Buildings can be replaced, people are precious."

More than 600 people attend services at the church. Barker said 89 children attend the preschool.

Parents were informed by phone that there would be no classes Monday.

"I'm just afraid it might be hard for us to have Sunday school because the Sunday school area is totally wrecked," said 10-year-old Savannah Mooney.

Investigators said it appears the blaze started in a part of the church built some 30 years ago. Another part of the structure, a sanctuary, was built just three years ago, firefighters said.

"This is only a building," Tim Mooney said. "We'll rebuild. We'll be stronger."