British Columbia

Tiny chapel in northwestern B.C. 'extensively' damaged after suspicious fire

A tiny, historic chapel in northern B.C. has been “extensively” damaged after a fire on Friday that investigators deem suspicious.

There were no utilities in the 1967 building that could have ignited, say officials

Emergency vehicles are seen outside the Usk Pioneer Chapel in Usk, B.C., on Friday. Officials say a fire at the historic building located on Highway 16 northeast of Terrace is being treated as suspicious. (Usk Pioneer Chapel/Facebook)

A tiny, historic chapel in northern B.C. has been "extensively" damaged after a fire on Friday that investigators deem suspicious

The Usk Pioneer Chapel, located in Usk northeast of Terrace, B.C., was built in 1967 along Highway 16. A  post on the Terrace Library website says it has been visited by thousands of people over the years.

The Thornhill Fire Department say they were called to the chapel around 6:30 a.m. on Friday, and when they arrived, they noticed that there was smoke coming out of the roof at the back.

"Upon entering [the] building, it appeared that something had ignited the wooden cross on fire, causing some structural damage to the rear wall and the roof," said Rick Boehm, emergency coordinator for the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine.

The back wall of the Usk Pioneer Chapel has seen significant damage after the fire on April 22. (Usk Pioneer Chapel/Facebook)

"The cause of the fire is still under investigation," Boehm said. "But, we can report there are no utilities in this heritage building — therefore it is suspicious at this time."

A post on the Usk Pioneer Chapel Facebook page said that the fire had caused "extensive damage but looks to be reparable," and called the fire a "malicious act of vandalism".

"Due to its location, fire insurance was not available," the post read.

Charred remains of the cross located inside the Usk Pioneer Chapel. (Usk Pioneer Chapel/Facebook)

Photos posted on Facebook show that the cross inside the chapel was nearly destroyed, though some repairs were made on Saturday to the back wall of the chapel.

The Terrace Christian Reformed Church has set up a donation page to aid the chapel management with repairs.

Back in 1967, the same church raised $820 ($6,859 in 2022 dollars) to specifically build the chapel without a heating system or other utilities, according to the Terrace Library.

With files from Micki Cowan