Parishioners look to rebuild after overnight fire damages Marpole church
A fire in the early hours of Sunday morning damaged St. Augustine's Church in Marpole, and members of the parish are worried the cost of repairs will set back what's become a hub for the community.
The fire originated in a vehicle in the church's underground parking lot. It started just after 1 a.m., and the Vancouver Police Department's Arson Unit is investigating after the cause of the fire was deemed suspicious.
No one was injured in the fire, but members of the church felt scared and helpless as they watched their church burn.
"It's really devastating. This is a big blow for this neighbourhood," Andrea Alexander said. "They support so many people in this community. There're community dinners for homeless people."
But by Sunday morning, it looked like the church can be salvaged.
There is smoke damage to the interior, as well as one window that was broken by the flames, according to John Zacharuk, assistant chief of operations for Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.
"We do have an extension of smoke [from the parkade] into the daycare and church," he said. "But other than that it's in fairly good shape."
Dave Bush got married at St. Augustine's about a year and a half ago. He watched the overnight fire, and returned to the church Sunday during the day with his wife Linda.
"I'm going to be here to help, that's for sure," he said. "I'll be washing walls. I can't afford [to help] financially, but elbow grease I got lots of."
He said the church is running low on funds, and is worried a setback like the fire will force them to cut their Thursday night dinners that welcome everybody.
"They have meals here on Thursday nights and it’s six bucks a plate," he said. "But if you don’t have no money, they don’t turn you away."
Nicole Van Humbeck, who heard about the fire at her morning choir meeting, says she heard the church has insurance and thinks it will rebuild.
"We're a resilient bunch," she said.
In addition to Thursday night dinners that serve around 80 people, the church also serves breakfast, runs a foodbank, runs a daycare and brings in doctors and social workers to connect with people who need them.
"It's really important for the community," Bush said. "That's the coolest part about this church is that I know everyone in the 'hood. I can't go to Safeway without running into 10 people that I know because of church.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Breanna Karstens-Smith.