Officer Mark Chandler stands by as a van parked outside the former Sitka Presbyterian Church burns Monday evening (9-13-21). (KCAW/Kimmell)

A van caught fire and was heavily damaged near downtown Sitka Monday evening (9-13-21).

Emergency dispatch received a call shortly after 7 p.m. that a vehicle was burning outside the former Sitka Presbyterian Church.

Police were first on the scene, and attempted to extinguish the fire in the engine compartment of the Chevy van, but it was already higher than the vehicle’s roof.

Fire Chief Craig Warren credits the officer for making the attempt.

“A five-pound extinguisher can get a lot of work done,” he said, “but it needs an enclosed space. When it’s (the fire) is vented like that, you push it back a little, but as soon as your extinguisher’s out, all those plastics and oils — foof! — reignite.”

Firefighters arrived on scene a few minutes later, and put the fire out with water. Warren says the incident was documented for insurance purposes, but no further investigation is warranted.

The former Sitka Presbyterian Church is in the process of being converted to residential housing.