Peninsula Daily News
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SEQUIM — Fire officials are citing a faulty neon light socket as the cause of a Christmas Day fire that damaged the First Baptist Church of Sequim's 12-foot steeple and prompted the steeple's removal Wednesday.
Alan Johnson, a member of the church's building and grounds committee, confirmed the fire crew's assessment, saying that a small neon cross affixed to the steeple was the source of the electrical short.
Church maintenance crew members took down the entire steeple on Wednesday morning after firefighters had taken 3 to 4 feet off the top after the Tuesday fire.
Fire crews from Clallam County Fire District No. 3 were told at about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday of a reported chimney fire, but they later learned from 9-1-1 dispatch that the fire was in fact the church at 1323 Sequim-Dungeness Way, said Patrick Young, spokesperson for the Sequim Fire Department.
The first crews on the scene discovered that the fire was contained to the steeple of the church, which was not occupied at the time, Young said.
After the fire was extinguished with no injuries, crews removed the top portion of the steeple for safety reasons and installed a piece of plywood over the hole to keep wind and rain from getting into the church, Young said.
The scene was cleared by 7:15 p.m., Young said.
Johnson said that he and church volunteers spent several hours Wednesday tearing down the remainder of the steeple, which — being atop a roughly 15-foot church structure — stood about 27 feet from the ground.
The church has no plans to rebuild the steeple, he said.
“It was a non-functioning steeple,” Johnson said, saying it had no bells and had no stairway up to it.
The steeple and the original church were built in the 1980s, according to Johnson.
The church sustained no fire, water or smoke damage, he said.
Young lauded a passer-by who phoned 9-1-1 emergency dispatchers about the fire, saying that the call probably prevented the fire from spreading.
“Nice, early notification probably prevented some fire damage to the church,” Young said.
Johnson praised the responding firefighters and said the steeple fire was extinguished about 15 minutes after crews arrived at the church.
“Those men and women did a fantastic job,” Johnson said.
“They handled it in magnificent style.”
Dawn Germain, administrative assistant for First Baptist Church of Sequim, said Wednesday that the church's normal services will not be affected by the steeple damage.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.