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Firefighters say cause of vacant Surrey church fire Tuesday night ‘not malicious’

Firefighters limit damage to two-storey church in Whalley
Surrey firefighters take down a blaze at a church in the 13700 block of 108 Avenue near Whalley Boulevard on Tuesday, June 27. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)

Surrey firefighters believe it was mischief – and not arson – that caused a fire Tuesday night that heavily damaged a vacant church in Whalley.

Assistant Fire Chief Greg McRobbie said the vacant Holy Cross Ukrainian Catholic church, at 13753 108 Ave., had been boarded up, with hydro and gas “shut down for some time.”

The two-alarm fire was called in at about 9:30 p.m. and roughly 20 firefighters quickly defeated the blaze.

“It appears that the fire started on the outside,” McRobbie said, adding that the Surrey RCMP “was brought in, as well as our fire investigator, and it wasn’t believed to be arson, just mischief.

“Not malicious, it could have been people in that region trying to stay warm or having a fire or something like that is what we got from that. And nobody was hurt.”

It happened only one block away from the arson fire that destroyed another church on July 19, 2021. St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, near 108 Avenue and 139 Street, caught fire just after 3 a.m.

Kathleen Panek, 35, of no fixed address, was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of arson for two fires at St. George’s.

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