Jason Chudy of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said there are indications the blaze may be linked to a series of previous arsons last year at Kingdom Hall churches in Thurston County.
The Puyallup fire broke out at about 2 a.m. Tuesday just outside the Kingdom Hall in the 11500 block of 62nd Avenue East.
The blaze was mostly extinguished by an exterior sprinkler system before it could reach the interior of the building, said a Central Pierce Fire & Rescue spokesperson. The blaze left scorch marks and damage on an exterior wall.
The damage would have been much more extensive if not for the sprinkler system, Chudy said.
“It saved the assembly hall a lot of damage,” he said. “We were very thankful there were sprinklers on scene.”
No one was injured.
Chudy said the fire looked “very similar” to five fires that were deliberately set at Kingdom Halls in Thurston County last year, destroying two of them. One church also was struck by gunfire in a sixth incident that caused $10,000 in damage.
“So even though at this point we can’t conclusively tie this to the other ones, the similarities lead us to believe it is at least possibly tied,” Chudy said. “So we believe this very well could have been potentially set in an attempt to burn the building down.”
He said law enforcement officials hope to catch the arsonist responsible before more damage is done or someone is hurt.
“We want this person or persons off the street as quickly as possible,” he said.