'This is a real setback for us:' Vancouver church hall damaged in suspicious blaze

Police say a fire that damaged the hall at St. Augustine's Church at West 71 Avenue and Hudson Street is most likely arson.

Fire likely arson, says Vancouver Police Department, firefighters

The parish hall at St. Augustine's Anglican Church in Vancouver's Marpole neighbourhood was damaged after a fire was set in an underground parkade on Sunday June 18, 2017. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

An overnight fire that damaged the hall of St. Augustine's Church in Marpole is most likely arson, according to Vancouver police.

Multiple people phoned 911 just after 1 a.m. PT Sunday, after seeing flames coming from the underground parkade of the building at West 71st Avenue and Hudson Street.

The Vancouver Police Department's arson unit is working with fire investigators to determine the cause of a fire that damaged the hall at St. Augustine's Anglican Church. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

"It [was] very dark and hot in there," said Battalion Chief John Zacharuk, with Vancouver Fire Rescue Services. "But our guys did a good job and got some water in quickly and cooled it off."

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the parkade, but the building sustained smoke and water damage.

Detectives from the VPD's Arson Unit are working with fire investigators to determine the cause of the fire.

Battalion Chief John Zacharuk directs a paramedic on scene. No one was injured in the blaze.

Members of the church community, woken up by sirens, all gathered outside to watch fire crews battle the blaze.

"I got married here about a year and a half ago," said Dave Bush, who lives near the church. "That's the coolest part about this church, I know everyone in the 'hood."

Dave Bush said he volunteers at the church weekly, mopping the floors. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Bush said the church is running low on donations, which it uses to run community programs like meals by donation and a food bank. 

"This is real setback for us. They were going to cut out the Thursday night meals," he said.

"The church is in big, big trouble. This is not helping things at all."

Volunteers said the church often serves around 80 meals a week. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

While church services went ahead on Sunday, programming and community meals held in the hall will be cancelled until further notice, said a church bulletin issued on Sunday.

"I started doing some fundraising for them last year," said Andrea Alexander, a Marpole resident who attends the weekly meals. "It's really hard for them to make a go of it and support this community."

Maria Crossan has volunteered at the church for over three years. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Three years ago a local community service provider closed due to a flood.

Since that time the church has helped provide services such as meals.

Officials with St. Augustine's Anglican Church say the parish has provided community services since a neighbourhood house closed down in 2014. Due to the fire programming and community meals are cancelled. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

"People that live by the river, in tents, they all come here," said Maria Crossan, who volunteers in the church kitchen.  

"They come here for breakfast, the food bank, for everything ... without this church here, this neighbourhood is really at a loss."

About the Author

Gian-Paolo Mendoza

Video Journalist

Gian-Paolo Mendoza is CBC Vancouver's overnight reporter. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @gpsmendoza.