ARLINGTON — A Fourth of July fire late Wednesday caused extensive damage to the Creative Arts Theatre and School in Arlington.
A passerby noticed smoke coming from the building at 1100 West Randol Mill Road around 9 p.m. Arlington Fire-Rescue found the source in the rear of the former church building where the stage is located.
"The fire was in a position where it was really hard to get to," said Arlington Fire Department Battalion Chief Brian Cudaback. "We ended up pulling some companies back — doing what's called a defensive strike — and then sending companies back in to fight the fire."
While from the outside there appeared to be little damage, it was a different story looking at the inside.
Cudaback said there was extensive smoke damage in the structure along with water damage in the basement. He added that the cause of the fire is under investigation and that the building had been unoccupied on Wednesday night.
Merri Brewer, CATS Producting Director, told News 8 she has no idea what the next step will be for the community theatre. Fortunately, Theatre Arlington has donated its building to house dozens of summer campers expected to start camp Saturday. However, CATS Fall semester with over 300 kids enrolled may be in jeapordy.
CATS has been at its Arlington location for 34 years and had actually put the building up for sale in March hoping to reduce costs for the non-profit. Brewer said the fire is a huge blow.
"It was heartbreaking to see this building burn," Brewer said fighting back tears. "We all have a lot of strong feelings."
Earlier this year, the non-profit organization — which provides a performance arts training ground for young people — announced plans to sell the Randol Mill Road facility and move to an "updated and more efficient location."
CATS is hoping to relocate to a new smaller facility in downtown Arlington. The non-profit has a link on its website for donations. The money will be used to defray clean up costs.
WFAA photojournalist John Pellizzari and WFAA.com contributed to this report.