A 75-year-old church in Chilliwack was completely destroyed by fire on Labour Day.
The blaze happened around 2:50 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 4 at Cross Connection Church on Williams Street at the corner of Princess Avenue.
An army of 54 firefighters from Chilliwack Fire Department Halls 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 responded and when the first crews arrived, smoke was venting from the attic of the large, wood-framed church.
Firefighters initially entered the building to see if they could find where the fire started, but were faced with heat and heavy smoke.
“Due to the rapidly deteriorating conditions inside the building, all firefighters were pulled back,” assistant fire chief Chris Wilson stated in a press release on Sept. 5.
Flames could be seen shooting through the roof of the church as black smoke billowed into the air.
For the remainder of the fire, crews fought the blaze using multiple aerial master streams from a ladder truck while crews on the ground used handheld hoses.
“Fire crews worked tirelessly for several hours and were challenged with a large wood-framed building, heavy volumes of smoke and fire and several structural collapses,” Wilson said.
One witness on scene recalled seeing flames get extinguished only to light up again several times in different areas of the roof.
In the evening, an excavator was brought in to remove some collapse hazards and begin demolition of parts of the building.
Despite the severity of the fire, some significant items inside the church were saved.
“Through the efforts of firefighters and the heavy equipment, several important documents and items were able to be successfully retrieved and returned to members of the church that were at the scene of the fire,” Wilson added.
Chilliwack RCMP assisted with traffic control as road closures were necessary to maintain public safety.
Two firefighters received minor injuries and there were no civilian injuries reported.
Police and fire investigators are in the preliminary stages of this investigation.
“It is expected that investigators will be able to enter the scene on Tuesday morning once the scene is deemed safe,” Sgt. Krista Vrolyk, media spokesperson with the Chilliwack RCMP stated in a press release. “Once we are able to examine the scene and gather more evidence, we will have a better determination of whether this fire is suspicious or criminal in nature.”
Anyone with any information regarding this fire is asked to call the Chilliwack RCMP at 604-792-4611 (reference Chilliwack RCMP 2023-36982).