Investigation continues into cause of Saginaw church fire; ATF involved

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SAGINAW (WJRT) (2/12/2019) - The investigation into what caused a church fire in Saginaw early Tuesday continued into the evening.

The investigation included the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to make sure the place of worship wasn't targeted.

Saginaw Fire Chief Chris VanLoo said the first arriving firefighters encountered heavy fire venting from The Way, The Truth and The Life Ministries on South Washington Avenue.

The steeple was already ablaze and toppled to the ground before firefighters could get water on the building.

"We fought this fire defensively because there was danger to the crews," VanLoo said.

The pastor of the church, Michael Washington, said a church service took place on Sunday and there was little activity in the building on Monday.

No one was believed to be inside the church when the fire started and there were no injuries. Damage was extensive throughout the building and fire crews ordered an emergency demolition to make the area safe.

Hours after the fire was put out, state and federal fire investigators were looking through the rubble, trying to determine the origin and cause of the fire.

Back in December, the house next to the church on Washington Avenue was damaged in a fire, which was ruled accidental. Saginaw fire crews had to battle through the cold weather to fight the fire, as heavy snow was falling in the stiff winds.

"These kind of conditions are difficult," VanLoo said. "We deal with a lot of freezing conditions. Things are slow and slippery and we have to take care of our personnel."

He said getting assistance from area fire departments was crucial.

"We know we are getting assistance immediately coming on a structure like this," VanLoo said.

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