UPDATE • Monday morning fire damages 30-year-old preschool on site
by: Jaime Valdez Firefighters battled a three-alarm blaze at Tualatin’s Living Savior Lutheran Church and Preschool on Southwest Sagert Street early Monday morning.

Tualatin police arrested two 13-year-old boys Monday for their connection to the three-alarm fire that drew more than 60 firefighters and devastated Living Savior Lutheran Church in Tualatin early Monday morning.

The Tualatin teens were transported to the Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Center Monday evening where they face second-degree burglary and first-degree arson charges by the Washington County Juvenile Court.

No one was hurt in the fire, the cause of which has yet to be determined.

"It was a mess. There were flames shooting out all over the place," said Living Savior Pastor Nathan Brandt, who received a phone call and arrived on the scene about an hour after Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue. "I could see smoke from a mile away. You could see the reflection of the smoke, it was almost like a spotlight in the sky."

Firefighters called to the church at about 3:17 a.m. found heavy fire and smoke venting from several portions of the building when they arrived early Monday morning, and despite several aggressive attempts to battle the fire inside, crews were forced to fight the fire from outside given the fire's size and concerns about the building's safety.

The fire, which drew 17 fire trucks from TVF and R, Lake Oswego Fire and Portland Fire and Rescue, according to bystanders, took about three and a half hours to contain, though the majority of the fire was extinguished after about 90 minutes.

More difficult to reach hot spots throughout the building's attic took hours to extinguish.

The two-story preschool and office space was built about 30 years ago. The church sanctuary, which also sustained heavy damage to the roof, was rebuilt three years ago.

"It was up on the sanctuary that was a really stubborn fire to fight," Barker said. "There's a void space under the shingles that allowed the fire to creep."

On-scene investigators said the fire likely started in the older section of the building.

"The left side is a total loss," Brandt said, of the older building behind the sanctuary. "We won't be able to use any of (the sanctuary) for quite some time - at least for a number of months."

The older section has undergone multiple additions throughout the last three decades, said Brian Barker, TVF and R spokesman, which made the flames in the building difficult to fight.

"The bulk of the fire was in the older part," Barker said. "There are all kinds of different walls and spaces between walls. It took a lot of resources and time."

According to Barker, fire investigators were still unable to enter the building by 7:30 a.m. in order to begin investigating the cause of the fire.

"We're going to have to have a meeting, get together, find some place else to meet, as the family of God," Brandt said.

This is the third time fire teams have been called to Living Savior within the past few years, though the previous two occasions did not inflict serious damage to the church's buildings.

"(At least) we're not doing any funerals," said Brandt, who has led the congregation of 600 people for the last decade. "I'm just hoping the firefighters on the roof don't get hurt."

Reporter Geoff Pursinger contributed to this story.

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