WINSTON — Two boys were allegedly involved in the fire that destroyed the Church of the Nazarene in Winston on Saturday.

Winston Police Department released information Monday that the parents of an 11-year-old boy and parents of a 10-year-old boy informed authorities about the involvement of the children with starting the fire on the outside of the building.

The fire was reported around 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the church’s location on 385 Thompson Ave., in Winston.

“It does not appear that this is any type of hate crime,” the press release said.

No one was injured in the fire. The structure, which also housed the local food pantry, appears to be a total loss.

On Monday, Pastor Cindy Slaymaker walked through the interior of the church with member Dale Herbert, and insurance adjuster and Servpro Operations Manager Rudy Medina.

The extent of the damage is quickly apparent once visitors move inside the main entrance. Much of the roof inside the foyer is gone, with only a tattered framework of timbers remaining — some more charred more than others.

To the left, a Bible, heavily damaged by water and debris, sits open on a table. Inside the sanctuary, piles of insulation line one side of the room while chairs are neatly stacked on the other side. A white smoke detector was visible on the blackened floor with a Duracell battery nearby. At the other end of the sanctuary, a large wooden cross, built on a wood framework, stands unblemished from the fire.

For a congregation that had reasons for optimism in recent months, Saturday’s fire was a tough blow.

Herbert and others saw it was a chance for a new beginning.

“We believe these things happen for a reason,” Herbert said Monday.

Bernice McClellan, who is the treasurer for the food pantry housed in the church, said she had not yet been able to see the damage.

“There was so much damage in there that there was no way we could safely go in and check and see if there was anything left,” she said. McClellan added that some of the food was stored in a separate building that was not impacted by the fire.

Food that was stored in that building will be distributed to those in need from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Monday and Wednesday at Riverbend Park.

“It’s not going to stop us,” McClellan said. “We’re still going to be here for the people in our community that need some help.”

The investigation into the fire is ongoing and will be forwarded to the Douglas County District Attorney’s office, according to the press release. Winston Police Department is being assisted by the Oregon State Police Arson Unit and the State Fire Marshall’s Office.

Anyone wishing to assist the church and the Winston Food Pantry can contact Pastor Cindy Slaymaker at Bi-Mart and Grocery Outlet in Winston are taking donations for the food pantry.

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True story- Long ago when my brother was 8 or 9 years old, he and his friend Pidgy Newman built a cardboard fort in our backyard. It leaned up against the YWCA which was a wood-frame building. Thanksgiving morning the boys decided to have a breakfast campfire in their little fort. Long story short, the fort caught fire; the fire spread to the Y; the fire department came and put the fire out. But the Y had to be torn down due to water damage.

I don't think my brother got in big trouble with the law. (It was probably written off as "little boys playing with matches."

I was little at the time. It is one of my earliest memories, and I have been terrified of fire ever since.

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