New Brunswick

'The saddest day of our town': Church at heart of Bas-Caraquet destroyed

A fire at St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church in Bas-Caraquet has reduced the historic heart of the village to a smoky ruin.

114-year-old St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church destroyed when fire comes back to life

Fire gutted St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church in Bas-Caraquet early Monday morning. (Wildinette Paul/Radio-Canada)

A fire at St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church in Bas-Caraquet has reduced the historic heart of the village to a smoky ruin.

The smell of smoke was overwhelming Monday morning, and debris and ash were scattered over the road in front of the skeletal remains of the building, which lost its steeple during a second burst of fire.

The fire broke out Sunday morning, and firefighters thought that they had it under control, but the flames roared back to life at about 4:45 a.m. Monday.

"The fire has almost entirely consumed the church," said Gilbert Blanchard, the president of the finance committee for the church. "The steeple has fallen. We were worried because the flames were coming out from everywhere."

The stone church was built in 1904 in the village about 10 kilometres east of Caraquet.

Fire destroys 114-year-old church

5 years ago
Duration 0:56
St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church was reduced to a smokey ruin after a fire that broke out Sunday came back to life early Monday morning.

"It takes a few sparks that have slept and woke up in the early morning, and then it did not take long until it spread to the roof," Blanchard said.

By 7 a.m. on Monday, there were no visible flames, he said.

Heart of community

The aftermath of Monday morning's fire in Bas-Caraquet. (René Landry/Radio-Canada)

Blanchard said the church was the heart of the northeastern New Brunswick village, which has a population of 1,305.

"The church was built with poor people at the beginning of the century," he said. "It's our heart. It's our spirits … it's the saddest day of our town today."

The church had been at risk of closing in 2013, but a committee established to save the church raised $860,000.

St. Paul's Roman Catholic church in Bas-Caraquet before the fire. (Google Street View)

The church was insured but Blanchard said he doubts that will cover all the damage. The parish is more likely to build a new building than repair the stone structure.

"We got insurance but a building like that … it's a lot of money," said Blanchard.

"It's something that we would like to rebuild … but to build something close to that would cost $10 to 15 million. It's pretty early but probably not, we won't get that church back."

With files from Gabriel Garon, Gabrielle Fahmy, Information Morning Moncton and Radio-Canada