Fire set at Ballard Church during Sunday service

SEATTLE -- The fire that broke out during a worship service at Ballard Church on Sunday, forcing the evacuation of more than 100 people, was the result of arson, according to the Seattle Fire Department.

Paul Diaz, lead pastor at Ballard Church, said he was in the middle of preaching during the church's 11 a.m. service when the fire started.

"Someone came in from the back, kind of from the kids' area, and says, 'Everybody out; there's a fire,'" Diaz said.

The fire started in the first-floor women's bathroom and filled both stories of the church located at 1460 N.W. 73rd St. with smoke.

Diaz said Ballard Church has more than two-dozen fire extinguishers, and he fortunately knows where they all are. He and other churchgoers were able to use the extinguishers to put out the fire before firefighters arrived.

"In the end, we went through, like, six of those things," Diaz said.

After the Seattle Fire Department's investigation, the Seattle Police Department's Arson Bomb Squad was called in to continue looking into the fire.

Diaz said he initially thought a candle in the bathroom had tipped over or caused the fire in some other way. But, he said investigators said the candle was untouched.

Diaz said it wasn't a great time to have a fire at the church, which is less than two years old and had a record attendance of nearly 300 people at the 11 a.m. Sunday service.

"We're growing as a new church," he said. "We hope everybody who came out for the service comes back."

The Seattle Police Department is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest for the arson.