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Year later, Bend church arsonist still on loose

By Alicia Inns
Published On: Mar 06 2014 07:35:02 PM CST
Updated On: Mar 07 2014 12:39:02 AM CST

NewsChannel 21's Alicia Inns takes a look back over the past year, since an arsonist struck a downtown Bend church and still hasn't been found.

BEND, Ore. -

March 6th, 2013 -- fire tore through Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Bend.

It's a phone call Pastor Roy Green will never forget.

"When you're awakened at 3:00 in the morning, it takes a moment for your head to get together. And then you begin to think, can this be real?" Green said.

It was --and not just one. Seven fires were lit in the area last spring at the hands of an arsonist. Neighboring St. Helens Hall, two detached garages, two cars and a garbage can, all damaged. A $2 million price tag.

"I remember driving over the overpass coming in, and I remember seeing the lights, I remember seeing the smoke, I remember seeing the flames. And then, the heartbreak hit," Green said.

Green stood by and watched as the church he leads was scorched by flames.

"It was literally stunning, it felt like someone had knocked your breath out," Green recalls.

The Family Kitchen, which operates out of St. Helens Hall, was forced to serve Subway sandwiches out of the back of cars and use the library for five days while the mess was cleaned up.

"To serve 120 to 60 meals a day, that's a lot of people to displace. But the support was so amazing," said Donna Burklow with the Family Kitchen.

Bend Fire Capt. Andy Hood was one of the first firefighters on scene that morning.

"In this case, we had two working commercial fires, with flames showing through the roof on both buildings on arrival. But we don't have that many people on duty -- we have 18 people on duty so that required us to call in mutual aid" from nearby agencies, Hood said.

Bend police say there's still no suspect, but they aren't giving up the search for the arsonist.

"We've sent numerous items off to be analyzed, we've interviewed and eliminated over 50 people," said Capt. Ken Stenkamp. "It's one of those things that's taking a lot of time, and we are still actively looking into it."

For Pastor Green and the congregation, it's not about as much about who, as it is why?

"That much anger must come from somewhere, and I think that's what nags at the leadership is, why was this done?" Green said.

After months of cleaning, the first service was finally held inside St. Helens Hall last month.

"It was a symbol of how the community had come together. It was such a happy, happy time," Green said.

It's been a year of memories, of rebuilding, of moving forward.

Now, the group can't wait until the chain-link fence disappears, the construction tape is gone and their beloved historic church can reopen.

"We'll have a scar, we'll have a memory. But we're not people who are continually and forever damaged by the fire," Green said.

There's still a $20,000 reward being offered for any information leading to an arrest in this case.

You can call Detective Tim Knea at 541-312-7974 with any tips.

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