Stairwell fire sent smoke into St. Michael's Church

Stairwell fire sent smoke into St. Michael's Church

YAKIMA, Wash. - Yakima firefighters want to remind folks to take care of their property after an early morning fire sent smoke into St. Michael's Church.

Firefighters with the Yakima Fire Department (YFD) arrived at the church, located at 5 S Naches Avenue after a report came in of a fire at 6:07 a.m., Wednesday.

Crews said fire was burning from an outside stairwell, below ground-level. Flames were damaging the stairwell door and reports said smoke was starting to enter the church.

YFD crews quickly put out the flames and stayed on site until 8:00 a.m. to remove smoke from the church interior. The church contained some smoke damage, reports said.

Due to the fire being located at a place of worship, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) was asked to assist with the investigation.

The cause of the fire is undetermined, but fire officials suspect it was started by someone trying to get warm who created a warming fire which got out of control.

Firefighters said the cause is not arson. A witness that was driving by said they saw an unidentified person trying to extinguish the fire before crews arrived.

Fire officials are asking that people take precaution as temperatures drop and more homeless people look for refuge in hidden spaces near structures.

They're encouraging homeowners and business owners to clear debris and garbage from surrounding areas of property to reduce risk of spreading fire. They also encourage lighting up hidden areas with security lighting, and installing cameras.

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