2 teens get 24-hour community service in fire that destroyed old Cherry Grove church

Five teenagers, aged 16 and 17, surrendered to police in September, according to a probable cause affidavit. Johnston was leading the group from Long Beach and went to the church property. Wirtanen told police he threw a mortar at the property, the affidavit states.

The other three teenagers have not been charged.

Slocum was sitting on the back porch of the church and his home with his nephew when they heard a loud bang, he said. Slocum’s nephew started shouting that the church was on fire. Slocum also called for help and grabbed a fire extinguisher before firefighters arrived. Yet he lost everything he owned.

“It’s like, you know, I hope you had a really good thrill because I’m going to have a lifetime of misery because of it,” Slocum said on the day of the fire.

When firefighters arrived, they found flames in the church’s steeple and attic, according to fire chief John Nohr. A 200 gallon propane tank next to the church also blocked firefighters as it vented flames and propane for over an hour as pressure built up inside the tank from the heat, according to firefighters.

Ten engines, a ladder truck, four chief officers, four water dispensers and a rehabilitation unit responded to the fire at the Clark-Cowlitz Fire Department, Clark County Fire District 3 and the Vancouver Fire Department. They called a rehabilitation unit because the battle lasted for several hours and because the blaze started after a long and busy weekend for firefighters who responded to calls for fireworks on July 4, said Nohr.


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Norma P. Rex