Firefighters battle fire at central Hamilton church

As crews continue to fight the fire, the pastor at Christ’s Voice of Restoration Ministries is worried about the future of his church and its food bank donations.
Tom Tirivangani of Christ’s Voice of Restoration Ministries worries about the future of his church and its donations as crews still fight the fire at the Barton and Sanford Avenue church. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Firefighters are in the final stages of extinguishing a multi-alarm fire at a church at Barton and Sanford.

Crews were called to the Christ’s Voice of Restoration Ministries church around 12:30 p.m. They’re still trying to put out remaining areas burning, said spokesperson Claudio Mostacci.

The fire started in the southeast corner of the building. (Courtesy Shawn Munro)

There were six people in the church at the time — five volunteers and pastor Tom Tirivangani. All six escaped safely, Tirivangani told CBC Hamilton.

But the church has a food and clothing bank for those in need, and the fire started near where the donations are kept, he said.

“We are concerned about the donations,” he said.

He’s also concerned about the expense the fire could inflict on the non-denominational church, which Tirivangani says is similar to the Pentacostal faith. It has a little over 100 members.  

“This is a terrible day for us,” he said. “It’s sad. “We don’t know what damage has been done, or what repairs we’ll have to make, or what we’ll have to do to get back on course.”

Tirivangani is the founder of the congregation, which moved into the church a little over a year ago. It began in 2008 "in the cradle of apartment 301, 15 Albright Rd.," its website says. 

"This church has prophetically been positioned, located in the most dangerous and poorest part of Hamilton, to bring a major revival of our generation," it reads. "Testimonies are increasing. Many people have started coming from other cities, provinces and from other countries to see the light."

The church was built in 1889. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The church operates the Seed of Faith thrift store at 429 Barton St. E., as well as a food and clothing bank. The charity services are for everyone, not just congregants, Tirivangani said. As for the community it serves, "it's everybody," he said. 

Adil Firid works at the Busy Bee convenience store across the street. He saw people from the church come into the store, presumably to get warm, he said. Otherwise, he only knew about the fire from the sound of fire trucks. 

The church was built in 1906 to house what was then Barton Street Methodist Church, a congregation that formed in 1889, said local historian Margaret Houghton. It was renamed Livingston Methodist Church in 1916 after minister Henry Livingston, and in 1927, became Livingston United Church.

That church closed in 1999 and its congregation was absorbed into Centenary United Church, Houghton said. The building became the Korean Presbyterian Church.

Fourteen trucks were called to the fire, which started in the southeast corner of the building, Mostacci said. The church has been renovated several times, which means there are false walls that make it hard to get at all the flames, he said.

Crews have closed Barton Street between Wentworth and Westinghouse. As of 3 p.m., the streets were still closed, and while firefighters were closer to extinguishing the fire, it was not completely out, Mostacci said.

Tirivangani said he's waiting, but hasn't been able to get back into the building to survey the damage.