Firefighters tackle suspect found after church fire

MIDLAND, Wash. --  A church in Pierce County went up in flames twice in the past six months. Investigators are now questioning one person, trying to figure out if this latest blaze was a case of arson.

Firefighters stayed mostly on the outside, when flames broke out at the Golgotha Baptist Church in Midland Monday morning. The building had significant damage from a previous fire, so it wasn’t safe for them to go inside.

On Tuesday morning, crews returned to make sure the fire was completely out, and to start their investigation.

“While they were checking the building, they noticed there was someone inside the building, gathering things up,” says Central Pierce Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Ed Hrivnak.

When they tried to get the man to stop, he took off running. They followed, and were able to tackle him.

“It was kind of an instinctive reaction,” says Hrivnak. “Our firefighters are not really trained to apprehend someone. We usually leave that up to State Patrol or sheriff’s office.”

The sheriff’s office is glad firefighters took action and got this person into custody. They’re now trying to determine if the suspect is a burglar, or if he might have been responsible for the fire.

“He's going to be held accountable whether he was involved in the arson or not, because you can't be doing that,” said Pierce County sheriff's detective Ed Troyer. “We found some items on him that we believe he was trying to steal from the premises.”

Sheriff’s deputies did arrest a man for arson after the fire last September. He’s still in jail, so they know he did not start this fire.

But the possibility that this is another case of arson was in the back of firefighters’ minds when they saw someone at the church Tuesday morning.

“It is very common if it is an arsonist that they do return to the scene of the crime, so that is always suspect,” said Hrivnak.

“When you see those yellow lines that say do not cross, you don't cross them unless you're up to no good,” added Troyer.