135-year-old Tay Township church burns to the ground

A historic church in Tay Township was destroyed by fire Monday morning.

Crews arrived on the scene just after 4 a.m. to find the 135-year-old Ebenezer United Church engulfed.

"We arrived on scene to a fully involved structure fire and started a defensive attack to being with," said Tay Township fire chief Shawn Aymer. "Unfortunately, in the end, we had to bring in an excavator to make it safe for our crews to do final extinguishment."

Marian Swales has been going to the church since she was a child and caught the flames on camera.

"When I got the phone call, I couldn't believe it, and I went, and I saw it," said Swales. "I still can't believe it. We watched it burn. It's really a sad day to lose a building like that and all of our fond memories that we still have."

Chairperson for the church, Lorraine Hook, said the fire is devastating and much of what was lost is irreplaceable.

"The old records we can not [replace], some of our older members have their marriage on record at this church, and we have lost that, we don't have that now," said Hook.

The church's former minister, David Black, was also on the scene Monday surveying the damage.

Black spent seven years leading the church.

"I'm in shock that it has happened," he said. "The people in this area are resilient, and they will find other locations or places that they can continue to serve their faith."

Members of the church said they are looking for a possible location for services in the short term.

As for the long run, they said it's too early to determine if they will go ahead with some kind of rebuild.

Damage is estimated at just over $500,000.

The fire is not considered suspicious.