Former church burns in downtown Olympia; woman rescued from roof

A woman was rescued from a burning building early Monday morning in downtown Olympia after flames drove her up to the roof.

At 2:25 a.m., firefighters responded to the scene at 911 Fourth Ave. E., an empty building that had most recently been Capitol City Studios but had been built as a church.

A ladder truck rescued the woman from the roof about an hour before the roof collapsed. She had cuts and scrapes, but refused aid and left the scene, Olympia Deputy Fire Chief Greg Wright said.

A man who also had been on the roof had jumped off the building and hurt his ankle, then ran away.

Both the woman and man later sought medical aid at Providence St. Peter Hospital, but the extent of their injuries was unknown, Wright said.

Officials escalated the response to two alarms with about 40 firefighters battling the flames at one point. Wright said fire officials were unsure whether anyone was inside the building, but no one has come forward to report any missing persons.

The woman who had been rescued from the roof told fire officials she didn’t believe anyone was inside the building, including its basement.

As of Monday morning, all that remained of the original Foursquare Gospel Church, built in 1939, was a pile of smoldering rubble.

Side walls from the building fell against both adjacent businesses, Fourth Avenue Food Mart and A1 Rentals, but those businesses suffered no fire damage, Wright said.

The basement of an office behind the building was damaged by water running off from the fire scene, according to the fire department.

The stretch of Fourth Avenue in front of the building was closed to traffic most of the day, causing bottlenecks in the area.

Fire crews had expected the building’s front wall to collapse onto Fourth Avenue, but the wall was eventually torn down with an excavator. Crews from Tumwater Fire Department and East Olympia Fire District 6 also responded.

Once firefighters finish fencing the area, the city will be responsible for working with the building’s owner on cleanup.

Because the building collapsed and was pushed into a pile, “we’re not going to be able to determine a cause and origin,” Wright said.

He added that the department has responded to other small fires at the abandoned building, which was well known as an informal refuge for the homeless.

Wright said downtown Olympia hasn’t experienced a commercial fire of this magnitude since the Oyster House restaurant burned down in July 2013.

News of the fire shocked longtime residents, including Don and Anna Bradley, who were married at the building 60 years ago as members of the Foursquare Gospel Church. The church eventually moved and changed its name to Church of the Living Water in the 1970s.

The couple met at the original church. Anna Bradley has been part of the church since age 6.

“It broke my heart,” she said about the building’s destruction. “I had so many memories there.”

The building has been owned by Steven Mullen since 2006, and county property records show the owner owes about $8,815 in delinquent taxes. The building has an assessed value of $123,200. Mullen could not be reached for comment Monday.