Renton church fire deemed arson


RENTON, Wash. - Investigators are calling a fire at a Ukrainian church and community center in Renton arson.

The fire started around 2 a.m. Thursday at the corner of Taylor Avenue Northeast and Renton Avenue at the Church of Grace and Ukrainian Community Center.

It caused about a million dollars in damage, according to firefighters on the scene.

When firefighters arrived, they noticed the fire was largely burning on the outside of the building.

Flames spread from a nearby dumpster where some pallets and other debris were being stored on the side of the church and onto the roof of the building.

"Obviously with the evidence you can see from here, it is of suspicious origin," said John Hettick with the Renton Fire Department.
Investigators later said the fire was arson and the AFT was brought in to investigate the possibility of a hate crime, although there is not yet any evidence that is the case.

The building also sustained heavy water damage, and the community center's auditorium and classrooms will likely need to be gutted and refurbished.

Fortunately, the church areas were unharmed.

Oleg Artym was supposed to get married at the community center Saturday.

"I was getting very excited, and then all this changed the plans," Artym said.

Fortunately, he was able to find another venue on short notice.

A witness told authorities he saw a couple of people leaving the area shortly after the fire started. However, investigators are still trying to track down that lead and find out if it has anything to do with the fire.

Church Administrator Vitaliy Soltys told KIRO 7 the building does have cameras, but sadly, none are pointed in the direction of where the fire started.

Soltys said he had no idea why someone would target his church.

"We try to be with everybody nice," he said. "I think we are good to all neighbors, but this still happened. We don't know why."