VANCOUVER, Wash. -- A Vancouver church continues to work to rebuild, after someone set fire to the building May 2016.
The arsonist has never been caught, even after the Clark County Sheriff's Office offered a $10,000 reward for the arrest and prosecution of the person responsible.
The iconic First Congregational United Church of Christ in Hazel Dell is shaped like Noah’s Ark. Tuesday, crews continued work on the first phase of construction, including moving a large steel support beam.
Church member Ken Rowe took KGW on a tour of the building, and into the sanctuary where a lot of the damage happened. He said before construction began crews had to remove asbestos, which slowed things down.
The church is working with Belfor Property Restoration, a worldwide restoration company, and estimates the damage at close to $4 million.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office said arson is still an open investigation.
Rowe said it’s easy to feel angry that the arsonist is still on the loose, and easy to feel frustrated that renovations are taking so long. But he added the fire has brought the church community closer together.
“The attendance has been better on a regular basis than what we were doing, say, this time last year. So I think that says there are people that really want to see this through,” Rowe said.
The church originally opened in the 1960s. There will be some changes when it’s finally able to reopen again. Rowe said they’ll probably have to cover up some of the big skylights that were burned in the fire.
Church members continue to meet in the Luepke Center in Vancouver, and hope to have the church open again by the end of 2017, or beginning of 2018.