Western Bay church fire deemed suspicious

The leader of a group that was restoring an old wooden church in Western Bay says he is suspicious about a fire that levelled it Tuesday.

The leader of a group that was restoring an old wooden church in Western Bay, said he has his suspicions about the cause of a fire which burned the church to the ground on Tuesday. 

"There was nothing there to catch fire, not a thing," said Leonard Tobin of the Methodist church that burned quickly Tueday.

Police are working with the Fire Commissioner's Office in an investigation into the blaze.

Crews arrived at the small, 138-year-old building in Western Bay just before 4 a.m.

Chief Roger Gillingham of the North Shore fire department said it was engulfed in flames when they got there.

No one was injured.

Church was newly renovated

Tobin, the executive director of the North Shore Regional Development Association, said his group had a government grant to fix up the building and turn it into a small library and museum.

Tobin said workers had just finished repairs on the exterior of the buildling, and were preparing to start on the church's interior.  

"People were overjoyed when we started to repair it and get it renovated again and re-establish it," lamented Tobin.

And today, said Tobin, "They're devastated."

Building was steeped in history

Tobin said the building, the former First Methodist Church, was steeped in history. It was built with wood cut by hand by community members, and had many functions over its 138-year history.

"It was a church, a Methodist church, a funeral parlour, an old schoolhouse, and a Sunday school. Everything was held into it," said Tobin.

Tobin said the fire also destroyed historical objects inside the church, including its wooden pews and pulpit, and old Bibles with family history information written inside them.

Police asked anyone with information that could help the investigation to contact RCMP or the anonymous Crime Stoppers service at 1-800-222-8477.