A fast-moving blaze raced through the meetinghouse early Saturday, with fire officials declaring the structure a total loss at the corner of Harbour Pointe Boulevard North and Chennault Beach Road.
Local and federal investigators determined the cause was arson and a $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.
Mukilteo Assistant Fire Chief Brian McMahan said the department received a call at 2:59AM PDT, with the first unit arriving six minutes later. Firefighters could see smoke and flames coming through the roof in the center of the building, he said.
The meetinghouse is home for for about 800 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The building did not have a sprinkler system, McMahan said. The building was unoccupied and firefighters decided to take a defensive position, fighting the blaze from the outside, he said. There were no reported injuries.
A total of 44 firefighters responded, including three engines, four ladders, four paramedics, six chief officers, and seven support teams. Besides Mukilteo, units from Fire District 1, Everett and Lynnwood responded. By 5:00AM, the building was largely destroyed, and crews continued to pour water on scattered flames, according to McMahan.
Investigators from the Mukilteo Police Department, Snohomish County Fire Marshal's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) determined the blaze was arson after concluding it had been deliberately set on the exterior at the back of the church near the center, McMahan said. Evidence was collected at the scene. Any information may be called into the Arson Hotline at (800) 552-7766, he said.
Jeffrey B. Lee, a former bishop at the Mukilteo ward and current president of the Lynnwood Washington Stake, said two wards (congregations), Harbour Pointe and Beverly Park, shared the building. Ward Bishops arranged to hold Sunday services at two other locations, one in Lynnwood and another at 15th Street in Everett, he said. Lee said there had been an actibity in the meetinghouse Friday evening but there was no use of the building's kitchen or cooking facilities.
Lee said a representative of the LDS church from Salt Lake City had arriverd to assess the situation, and indicated the church would likely rebuild at the same location.
He said an activity had taken place Friday evening, but it didn't include any cooking.
"Despite the loss," Lee said, "church members are up beat and looking forward, not back after getting over the initial loss."
The church building was the first non-residential structure built at Harbour Pointe, according to city officials, and as such, building codes did not yet require a sprinkler system. “If it there had been sprinklers, we wouldn’t have this situation,” McMahan said. "Directly next door is an even larger structure built shortly after the church's meetinghouse, Kamiak High School, "said McMahan. "It has no sprinkler system, either."
Snohomish County property records show the 15,000 square foot brick meetinghouse was constructed in 1989 on 2.21 acres and a 2010 value of $3.3-million dollars.