Man confesses to starting SE Portland church, house fires

PF&R crews went to the scene at SE 139th and Stark around 1:45 a.m.

Fire damaged Eastside Free Methodist Church in Southeast Portland, Feb. 21, 2016 (KOIN)
Fire damaged Eastside Free Methodist Church in Southeast Portland, Feb. 21, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A 46-year-old man reportedly confessed to starting 2 fires early Sunday morning, one of which damaged Eastside Free Methodist Church in Southeast Portland, authorities said.

Crews with Portland Fire & Rescue went to the scene at SE 139th and Stark around 1:45 a.m. and saw fire coming from one side of the building. The fire was quickly put out, and no one was hurt, officials said.

Jaime Calderon, 46, confessed to starting the church fire and another fire in a vacant house across the street. (MCSO)
Jaime Calderon, 46, confessed to starting the church fire and another fire in a vacant house across the street. (MCSO)

Pastor John Unger told KOIN 6 News the fire started in the recycling bins in the back of the church. The official investigation into the cause of the fire continues.

“There was other fires in the area, so it didn’t seem targeted to us,” Unger said.

Jaime Calderon, 46, confessed to starting the church fire and another fire in a vacant house across the street, PF&R said. He is charged with 2 counts of first-degree arson.

Tony Fleming, a member of the Solution Motorcycle Club — a group that sees the church as a home away from home — said he was choked up when he heard about the fire.

“At 6 o’clock this morning, I was drinking coffee and one of my brothers in the club texted me and said our church got burned up,” he said. “I just love these people.”

The church officials just put in new carpet and chairs, he said.

Fleming said the people running the church are “amazing” and they want to help any way they can. “Financially, manpower, and I’d like to sy catch the people who did this, but that would be agains the rules,” he said, laughing.

Pastor Unger said it will be about 6 months before the sanctuary is once again usable.

But he noted, “The church is people, not a building.. Good is going to come out of this.”

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