Two 10-year-old boys allegedly started a fire that gutted Lakeview Congregational UCC in Lakewood, Wash., on Friday, May 5, 2000. No one was injured.
The two-alarm fire ripped through the 98-year-old church and wedding chapel at approximately 11:30 a.m.
"I don't know how kids can do something like this," said long-time church member Sandee Alm.
Pierce County sheriff's deputies said they believe the fifth-grade boys skipped school at Lakeview Elementary that day and broke into the church's main building. Once inside, the boys allegedly ate food, vandalized the pastor's office and took $30, said Pierce County sheriff's spokesman, Ed Troyer.
Investigators believe the boys then lighted the church's candles and set fire to dried flowers that led to the blaze.
"Things got out of hand and they left," said Troyer.
Police arrested the boys, shortly after the fire started, while responding to a report that two boys were throwing rocks at cars a few blocks away from the church.
The boys were booked into Remann Hall, the county's juvenile detention center, on suspicion of second-degree arson and second-degree burglary.
Authorities did not release the boys' names because they are juveniles.
"It was a beautiful landmark," said Kenneth Kramlich who lives up the street from the church. "I hate to see it go."
Members said they plan to rebuild the church on that site. The congregation plans to rent space from a nearby facility in order to conduct worship services, says George Vanarsdall, treasurer.
The church's membership has decreased over the years to approximately three dozen members. However, the facility was a place of worship for local residents and military personnel, and provided a place of marriage for couples without a church home.
"We are amazed and thankful for all congregations ... and everyone that has extended sorrow and help," says Vanarsdall. "It's a good sign that there are good people in the world."
Laiteisha Dobbins is a freelance writer from Euclid, Ohio.