October 22, 2015

Fire Roars Through Warehouse Owned by Auburn Adventist Academy

, news editor, Adventist Review

A fire has destroyed a second warehouse owned by Auburn Adventist Academy in six months, prompting its vice principal to declare Wednesday that the school in the U.S. state of Washington could see the “adversary working relentlessly.”

Firefighters struggled to extinguish the flames late into Tuesday night after the fire broke out around 6 p.m. at the two-story metal warehouse on the edge of the academy’s campus. The building is near the boys dormitory and leased to Monster Metal, a metal fabricating business.

The owner of the business and his dog managed to escape the blaze uninjured, said the Valley Regional Fire Authority, the local firefighting agency.

“The building owner reports he and his dog were the only ones inside when fire started,” it said on Twitter.

Auburn Adventist Academy vice principal Marko Oksanen expressed relief that no one was injured.

“We're very grateful that everyone is safe!" he said. “We can see the adversary working relentlessly, as time is short, with now two fires here within months, but God has been with us. He will make something good out of this as well.” 

The cause of the fire was under investigation, but Valley Regional Fire said Monster Metal had engaged in blacksmith work inside the warehouse.

A spokeswoman for the Adventist Church’s Washington Conference, which owns the academy, told the Adventist Review that the conference was monitoring the situation.

The fire took hours to douse, and smoke rising from the building was visible for miles. Firefighters had to use metal saws to enter the warehouse and, once inside, sprayed special foam to gain control of the fire.

The fire was the second on the property in six months. On the night of May 7, a fire destroyed an industrial warehouse that the academy leased to multiple businesses, including an auto body shop, to generate money for students’ education. The fire also damaged an adjacent warehouse. Investigators said the fire did not appear suspicious.

The academy owns several clusters of small warehouses in an industrial park. While the academy retains insurance on its warehouses, the policy only partially extends to tenants, who are expected to hold their own insurance for their businesses. 

"Some of the effects of the fire are still unknown, but for now one of our best industrial tenants has lost his business," Oksanen said in a statement provided by the Washington Conference. "Our prayers are with him, and we have pledged to do support him through this. Because of the fire, power also had to be cut off to an adjacent industrial building and the tenants in that building are still without power.

As to the students, the impact was minimal, he said. 

"Access was restricted to the part of campus affected by fire, but otherwise things were normal and classes are going on today as usual," he said. "Please keep us and our tenants in your prayers, as we deal with the aftermath."