Second suspicious fire in one week destroys historic Gitwangak church.
The abandoned St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Gitwangak was destroyed by a fire on Thursday night that the New Hazelton RCMP is deeming suspicious.
Several photographs and videos of the fire were posted on social media, showing the building engulfed in flames.
A previous suspicious fire at the church on June 26th was extinguished before it could do much damage. This time, however, it appears the church -- which was built by Gitwangak community members in 1893 -- is gone.
“Investigators have been in contact with several devastated community members who watched their beloved church completely destroyed,” said B.C. RCMP spokesperson Sergeant Chris Manseau in a press release.
“This church has been in the community for over 100 years and was previously used for marriages, baptisms and funerals. However it was vacant and was not currently used by the community.”
The bell tower that sits beside the church was saved despite some fire damage.
“I'm so heartbroken for so many reasons,” said Gitwangak Chief Councillor Sandra Larin.
“My parents were married in that church. My grandparents helped build it. Elders that I respected built it with their hands.”
Although the RCMP is treating the fire as suspicious, Larin wouldn’t say if she suspected whether or not someone caused the fire intentionally.
“I think emotions are really high, and everybody seems to have that conclusion. But there are experts who will know, and the investigation needs to be done with the experts. So at this point, I won't comment on whether we think that's the case or not.”
The Terrace RCMP’s General Investigation section is assisting the New Hazelton detachment with their investigation into the fire. Police are asking for anyone who may have witnessed someone in the area of the church prior to either fire – or anyone who may have any information regarding the fires – to contact the New Hazelton RCMP detachment.
Photo source: Suzie Rush (Facebook).