Church fire that erupted blocks away from two other fires deemed arson

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NEAR TACOMA, Wash. - A three-alarm church fire in the Midland area of Pierce County was one of three fires that occurred early Thursday morning within blocks of one other.

Midland is southeast of Tacoma.

The fire at the Golgotha Moldavian Baptist Church in the 8400 block of Portland Avenue East started just before 1 a.m.

When a KIRO 7 Eyewitness News crew arrived, flames were shooting through the roof of the building. At that point, the fire was two-alarms, but shortly after went to three-alarms.

Firefighters were later told to leave the building and fight the fire from the outside.   

See photos of the fires here.

Central Pierce Fire and Rescue later said the church fire was arson. 

The building is considered a total loss, estimated at $1 million. 

At the time the church fire began, fire crews were already working on another fire nearby at an abandoned house in the 1700 block of 91st East.   That fire erupted shortly before 12:30 a.m. and engulfed half the building.

When the church fire erupted, units were pulled from the house fire to investigate.

One of the arriving crews came upon a car fire two blocks north of the church and extinguished that fire. 

More than 50 firefighters from multiple agencies, including Central Pierce fire, Tacoma fire and Graham fire responded to fight the three fires.

A man who was seen walking away from the burning church was arrested after a neighbor reported someone trying to break into a house.  Joshua Toves is being held for investigation of attempted arson.

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