Staff photo by Daniel Wattenburger
A fire gutted the Hermiston Adventist Church early Sunday morning.
The fire started at the end of the west wing of the church at 855 W. Highland Ave., according to Scott Goff, fire marshal for Umatilla County Fire District 1, who was on scene Sunday afternoon.
Flames were high when firefighters arrived at about 4:30 a.m., he said, and the first crew to respond worked on that part of the building until backup arrived and they moved to the rest of building where the fire was spreading.
The exact cause is not known, but in a Facebook post later in the day UCFD said it was started by a heat source near an ignition source.
Firefighters were still on scene Sunday afternoon, and Goff said the entire inside of the building was heavily damaged, an estimated $3 million according to the fire district post.
Members of the church also stood on the lawn and surveyed the damage. The church is best known in the community for its annual Journey to Bethlehem village during the Christmas season, a recreation of the Nativity story.
Police were also canvassing the neighborhood asking if anyone saw anything, police chief Jason Edmiston said, a common tactic after a fire.
While fighting the blaze, firefighters were called to another fire at about 6:30 a.m. for a single-wide trailer at 2180 NE 10th Ave.
Goff said the family was not home at the time, and it was a total loss.