Historic Arlington church set on fire, no suspects yet

Historic Arlington church set on fire, no suspects yet
ARLINGTON, Oregon. -- Investigators hope to find the person who torched a historic church in Arlington, Oregon. The church caught fire before sunup this morning.

It's west of Boardman. The arson follows another suspicious fire back in July. KEPR talked with the distraught community.

Connie Jo Yutzie was pastor of Arlington Church of the Nazarene on and off for the past 18 years. She can't stop staring at what's left of the place she called home.

"The weddings, the funerals, the baby showers and wedding showers, teaching Sunday School and preaching...just everything that takes place," she said.

She doesn't understand why. or how.

"It just makes you sick to your stomach, it's just a sweet old building with a lot of memories."

Deputies are calling it arson. They believe the church was set on fire just after 4AM. A nearby neighbor was holding an early-morning Bible study when he saw flames pop up in his window. His wife went to notify Pastor David Gossett, pounding on his door at 5AM. There was nothing anyone could do.

"When I got here it was just a ball of flames."

He watched the church go down right before his eyes. Pastor Gossett had never even preached there. The church was set on fire over the summer as well and it was being rebuilt. Christmas was supposed to be the first services after the reconstruction.

"I've had several people come by me and say my aunt was married there, and these are elderly people in the community saying this...so for me it was...it's just a huge loss for the community that this building, this landmark of a building is gone."

Deputies tell me there have been a number of suspicious fires in Arlington in the past year. All within 4-6 blocks of each other.

"There's definitely, definitely concern, safety concern, especially the fires that were near the residences, schools, church...it makes one very concerned for our citizens' safety," said Gilliam County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Gary Bettencourt.

With no leads on the arsonist, the community quickly vows to rebuild -- again.

"Just, so much of out life has been around the church, and...serving the people...this was out life," said Yutzie.

The church was built before the turn of the century. The Oregon State Police Arson Unit and the ATF are investigating. It's too early to say if this fire is connected to the one in July.