A historic church in East Lake Ainslie was destroyed by fire Sunday morning.

Police received the 911 call just after 9 a.m. and Cape Breton fire departments from Whycocomagh, Inverness and Lake Ainslie battled the blaze at the East Lake Ainslie Presbyterian Church.

The church was built in 1880.

RCMP Const. Brad Anderson said when he got to the scene at about 9:40 a.m. there were no visible flames.

"However within about half an hour, the fire had made its way through the roof, and shortly after that the entire roof was engulfed."

"The roof and the steeple, they're all gone, they've already collapsed," he said. "The church is a total loss."

Residents say they were saddened by the loss.

"I thought it was a sad irony of a church with such a legacy within the community burning down a week before Christmas," said Buzz McAdam, who lives just a few houses down from church.

"It's the building that everybody, I would say, giving directions to outside guests, you'll always include the church in your directions," McAdam said. "And it's sad to see it gone."

RCMP are advising motorists the East Lake Ainslie Road is closed and will likely not reopen before 1 p.m.

The cause of the fire hasn't been determined.

This is the third church fire in the Maritimes in recent weeks.