Another church burned down around 3:30 am in Surrey on Monday only one wall remains of the original structure.
Resident Holly Quinn told City News she woke to smoke and flames as the fire burned in her neighbourhood. “There’s only one wall remaining of the original building, just the front atrium…we can see the flames from our deck,” she said.
The fire could be seen for kilometres in the area of 108 Avenue and 138 Street as local firefighters unsuccessfully combated the flames. Fortunately, it did not spread to surrounding properties.
The Surrey Fire Department confirmed Monday morning that St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, primarily frequented by those of African and Middle Eastern lineage, was lost entirely to the fire. “The roof’s collapsed on it. It’s a fully defensive fire at this time,” said Assistant Fire Chief Shelley Morris: “It’s completely destroyed.”
Despite the tragedy, Quinn said she’s thankful for the efforts of her local fire department as the close proximity of other buildings and vegetation could have been far more devastating. “There are firefighters on the roofs of condos across the street from the blaze, making sure it doesn’t spread,” she added.
The blaze impacted traffic as 108 Avenue shut down in both directions from 138 to 140 Street. Residents also complained of ash in the air that reduced air quality significantly.
The fire’s cause is under investigation, with a church board member alleging arson after seeing a woman on video last week attempting to start a fire at the church entrance.
Medhat El Masry, a patron of the church for 25 years, said the fire hit the church congregation of 400 families hard. For him, it is “a day of mourning for my church,” he said to City News: “It’s catastrophic for me.”
Though unsure what the next steps will be, he reminisced on the “big role” St. George Coptic Orthodox Church had on the lives of many, including his own. “Only the façade that’s left and the rest seems to be gone,” said El Masry, who added that efforts to rebuild will take considerable time and cost a lot of money.