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COOS BAY — Church leaders are looking to rebuild after a fire caused around $150,000 in damage to the Seventh-day Adventist church over the weekend.

"We're not going to allow things like this to disrupt our mission," said Pastor Thomas Nicholas. "This is just par for the course."

The fire centered around the laundry room of the church's clothing pantry, a separate building from the main church. The fire gutted the laundry room, shattering multiple windows and impacting the building's electricity along the way.

The cause of the fire is officially "undetermined," though fire officials have identified a few possible causes, according to Fire Chief Mark Anderson.

"At this point, we've done pretty much what we can," Anderson said Monday.

Dispatchers received reports of a fire at the church around 8 p.m. Saturday, and crews responded to the church clothing pantry in a nearby building, according to the fire department.

Crews did a preliminary knockdown of the fire from outside before entering the building and extinguishing the fire. The fire was extinguished in about 20 minutes, but crews remained on scene for another hour and a half investigating the fire and overhauling the building.

The clothing pantry typically distributes clothing to families on Tuesdays, Nicholas said. It likely won't be open this week, but Nicholas said church leaders are making plans to reopen in some form in the next week or so.

"All of that's going to continue," Nicholas said. "We just might have to change how we do it or where we do it."

Some of the clothes in the pantry were lost to the fire and its smoke, and some will still be usable after being washed. A collection of Christmas toys suffered some impacts from the smoke, and the neighboring food pantry went largely unscathed other than a loss of electricity.

The department estimates the fire caused $100,000 in damage to the building and at least $50,000 in damage to its contents.

Anderson said the fire started in an area near electrical wires, flammable rags and an external dryer vent.

The wires could have accidentally sparked the fire, Anderson said, or the rags could have combusted. Or, lint in the dryer vent could have been smoldering since it was last used and caught fire if conditions were right.

It's also possible that the fire was intentional — someone could have set it without getting into the building because of the dryer vent's external access, Anderson said.

Church users had left the building around 5 p.m., though Nicholas said the building's windows have been broken out by some individuals previously.

Nicholas is hoping to make the best out of the situation, using the need to rebuild the building as a chance to improve it.

"This gives us an opportunity to reenvision the ministry," he said. Adding a shower and public laundry facility for homeless individuals could be a possible addition after reconstruction, Nicholas said.

Crews have finished their investigation with the physical evidence. Anyone who may have more information is encouraged to call the fire department at 541-269-1191.

Nicholas says individuals interested in helping after the fire can contact the church at 541-756-7413.

Reporter Zack Demars can be reached at worldnews3@countrymedia.net.

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