Editor's note: This story is part of the News-Times' special series, "Decade in Review." This series features three stories that helped to define each year of the 2010s. These can retell single stories that mattered to readers of the time, a saga that played out across many articles, and even stories that were crowded to the margins by other news at the time but have made a lasting impact on our region.
One of Washington County's oldest church buildings was consumed by a fire on June 9, 2018, leaving community members heartbroken.
Hillside Bible Church near Gales Creek, northwest of Forest Grove, had stood since 1900. A nearby schoolhouse dates back even further — it hosted the congregation before the completion of the church building.
The schoolhouse and the parsonage survived, but the church hall itself was a total loss. The entire structure was engulfed in flames by the time Forest Grove Fire & Rescue crews arrived at about 6 p.m., and it collapsed about 15 minutes later. A firefighter from the Banks Fire District, which also responded, suffered burns to his hands during the firefighting action, but his injuries weren't serious, officials said.
No one was inside the church building when it caught fire. Pastor Tim Goold and his wife, Bonnie, live in the parsonage on-site, but they weren't injured.
The cause of the fire was determined to be an electrical fault. Investigators said it appeared to have started in a space between the main floor and the basement.
Hillside Bible Church immediately vowed to rebuild. Services have continued to be held, with the congregation meeting outdoors next to the burned remnants of the church building in the weeks following the fire. The church bell was retrieved from the rubble, but church leaders decided it was too badly damaged to be hung again.
In late 2018, Washington County officials signed off on a request by church leaders to rebuild on the site — approval that was needed because the church was so old, it was considered a "legal non-conforming land use." A site plan was approved in 2019.
Church leaders have emphasized that it wasn't Hillside Bible Church that was destroyed in the fire — just the old building where the congregation, which is the true Hillside Bible Church, met for worship.
Pastor Goold expressed gratitude to the community for its support, as well as to Village Missions, a nonprofit group with which Hillside Bible Church is affiliated.
"It's been wonderful," he said in December 2018 of the outpouring of support after the fire. "The community has been amazing."
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