Suspect trying to steal gasoline sparks fire that burns church vans

Clackamas County deputies are working to identify a person who sparked a fire that destroyed three vans owned by a local church.

Firefighters responded to Grand View Baptist Church located on S. Leland Road near Oregon City around 2:30 Sunday morning. When first responders arrived, they found three passenger vans engulfed in flames that reached 20 to 30 feet in the air.

Pastor Mike Mutchler initially thought the vans were torched on purpose, but after speaking with fire investigators and reviewing surveillance video, they now believe the suspect was trying to steal gasoline.

The church's security cameras captured the entire event.

Church van fire - Video from Grand View Baptist Church

The suspect drove in around 2:15 a.m. and parked their car in the eastern edge of the parking lot. Ten minutes later, cameras pick up an orange glow under the vans. Then a person emerges on camera with what appears to be their pants' leg burning.

The person is seen retrieving an item, then running off into the darkness, with something in their hand on fire.

Authorities later recovered a drill in the parking lot.

"He decided to drill the tank," Mutchler told KATU. "It caught fire on him."

At 2:26 a.m., the suspect peeled out in a sedan and turned east on S. Leland Road.

"We would rather him knock on the door get $20 for fuel than take the little bit of fuel that he had," Mutchler said. "We have a Christian school and we use them every day... we are actively trying to look up vans to replace those."

Mutchler estimates the petty crime will cost the church $30,000 to $40,000.

He says insurance won't cover the vans because of their age.

Mutchler says the vans have been targeted more than a dozen times over the past few years. He is now considering keeping church vehicles in a more secure location, but he says fencing the entire property is not on the table.



By: ThisIsButter (41974.00)

Tags: Suspect trying to steal gasoline

Location: 9101 SE Sunnybrook Blvd, Clackamas, OR 97015, USA