LYNNWOOD – A blaze Tuesday afternoon at the top of St. Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church forced fire crews to chainsaw their way into the building’s signature copper dome.
The fire was discovered about 3:30 p.m. between the copper and the inside of the dome, fire officials said, and there was no easy way to get at it.
Eight people were inside the building when the fire started, and all got out quickly, fire officials said.
Four ladder trucks from four fire departments were needed to raise firefighters 80 to 100 feet in the air and close enough to cut into the roof and reach the fire, Fire District 1 spokeswoman Leslie Hynes said.
“It’s not like a normal roof that firefighters can stand on,” she said as chainsaws buzzed in the background.
About two dozen church members rushed from all over the area and watched with a sense of fear and faith as fire crews tried to douse the difficult fire.
“I saw it on the TV first,” said a tearful Gigi Azmy of Mukilteo. “I just got my kids and came here. All I know is this is God’s house. He will protect it.”
Architecturally ornate, St. Mary’s church was built in 2004 after years of planning by church members. The church has 300 families.
The building is located at 4110 204th St. SW, and Tuesday’s fire was visible from I-5.
Inside the copper dome is a hand-painted mural of Jesus, angels and religious icons, church members said.
Hynes looked at the mural in the dome after firefighters had the fire under control.
“I don’t know what damage has been done to the artwork,” Hynes said.
The church sustained extensive water damage, and the electrical system was damaged, Hynes said. There was no cost estimate available for damages, she said.
Fire investigators still are evaluating the cause of the fire. They interviewed a man who was using a propane torch for work on the roof. The man said he heard crackling, peeled back the copper roof and discovered flames, so he called 911, Hynes said.
One firefighter at the scene needed to be taken to Stevens Hospital for evaluation. He was treated and released.
Shanna Massoud, a church member from Mountlake Terrace, was called with the news and she raced to the church.
“We’re just hoping that everything will be OK and we’ll have our church back,” she said. “It’s our church.”
The Coptic church is a Christian faith originating in Egypt and is based on the gospel of Jesus’ disciples.
After the danger of the fire passed, church members and firefighters carried out paintings, Bibles and altars, anything that needed to be protected from the smoke and water inside the building.
“At least no one was hurt,” said Mary Girgis of Edmonds, a member of the church for 27 years.
A fire crew was scheduled to monitor the building through the night in case the fire was rekindled, Hynes said.
Donations to help with the damage can be made at stmaryseattle.com.