Crews to search for victims in burned Olympia building

At least one person may have died in an Olympia fire early Monday morning. But police and fire officials won’t know for sure until the site has been excavated.

Olympia police Lt. Paul Lower said a Pierce County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue dog visited the site and indicated that human remains may be buried in the rubble.

“Our biggest concern right now is to identify whether there are any victims in there,” Lower said. “And if there are, we would like to locate them.”

Lower said that because the building at 911 Fourth Ave. E. — formerly the Foursquare Gospel Church, and more recently Capital City Studios — was built in 1939, there are concerns that the rubble may contain asbestos.

“That means we can’t just start digging,” Lower said.

The city’s Public Works Division will handle the excavation.

Anyone with information about people who may have been inside the church at the time of the fire should contact Detective Bryan Houser at 360-753-8413 or Sgt. Sam Costello at 360-753-8205.

When the Olympia Fire Department responded to the blaze at 2:25 a.m. Monday, firefighters rescued a woman from the roof. A man who had also been on the roof jumped off and ran off, according to the Olympia Fire Department.

The man and woman were both treated later at Providence St. Peter Hospital.

It’s not unusual for people to be inside the building at night, even though it has technically been vacant for years, Lower said.

“That building has long a history of having folks, particularly transients, break into it and camp out,” Lower said. “A few years ago, the neighboring businesses were calling all the time to report break ins and complain about yelling coming from the building.”

So far, there’s no indication that the people inside the building caused the fire, but there’s a good chance that the cause will never be found.

“If you drive past, you’ll see that it’s just a big pile of debris,” Lower said. “It’s hard to determine a cause from that.”

According to the Olympia Fire Department, damage to the property is estimated at $100,000. The building has been owned by Steven Mullen since 2006, and the building had an assessed value of $123,000, according to county records.

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