Investigation launched after St. Anne's Anglican Church burns to the ground in Toronto

Authorities have not yet determined what caused the fire.

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC
On Sunday morning, firefighters in Toronto were called to the site of a beloved church in the Little Portugal neighborhood. By the time they arrived, however, St. Anne's Anglican Church was all but gone, with only some of the outer walls left intact. 

Beyond being a community staple and popular place of worship, the 160-year-old church was home to a collection of pieces painted by the Group of Seven, which Father Don Beyers described as "priceless." The paintings are believed to have perished alongside nearly everything else inside the building.

According to the Toronto Police Service, the fire broke out shortly before 8 am on Sunday. When first responders pulled up to 270 Gladstone Avenue, they "observed thick black smoke coming from the church," which was "fully engulfed in flames."

It wasn't until nearly an hour later that Father Don Beyers was informed of the disaster. While on his way to the church, a parishioner texted him about what had happened, with several more sending him messages in the following hours.

Photo: St. Anne's Toronto

As CityNews reports, Beyers mourned the loss of not only the church, but the 16 to 18 "beautiful murals" which had long sat on its walls. "The artwork was priceless," he said. "They were stunning. This was the only church that featured artwork by members of the Group of Seven and I'm sorry to say that had been lost based on what I see."

During a press conference, Toronto Fire Services deputy chief Jim Jessop confirmed Beyers' fears, explaining that, "the building is completely destroyed ... as [are] all the artifacts inside." He noted that the roof had caved in, essentially eliminating the possibility that anything could be salvaged.

"Yesterday's fire was not the end of the story, but rather the beginning of a new chapter," Beyers wrote in a statement on Monday, noting that as rebuilding takes place, members can congregate to worship down the street at Loveless Cafe. "We will rise from the ashes stronger and even more committed to our mission to be a church for all people." 

Authorities have not yet determined a cause for the fire, however, an investigation is underway.
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