New Brunswick

'So tragic,' archbishop says after fire destroys Shemogue church

A century-old church caught fire Thursday morning in the southeastern New Brunswick community of Shemogue.

105-year-old wooden church deemed beyond saving by firefighters

A fire destroyed Saint Timothée Church in Shemogue on Thursday morning. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

A century-old church caught fire Thursday morning in the southeastern New Brunswick community of Shemogue.

Saint Timothée is a Catholic church that's part of the Archdiocese of Moncton.

Firefighters were on the scene before full daylight, but Beaubassin East Mayor Louise Landry said they determined the building was beyond saving.

"We recovered two or three objects," Landry said. "The rest, we know that there is no chance of recovering anything from the church."

Cap-Pelé fire Chief Ronald Cormier says it's too early to say what caused the fire. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Cap-Pelé fire Chief Ronald Cormier said the call came in around 5 or 6 a.m. Thursday. The fire was small when firefighters arrived, but flames spread fast within an hour to destroy the church.

"It's probably more than 100 years old, and it's dry," he said. "It was a big challenge."

Firefighters from five different departments responded, he said, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

"We can't say if it's suspicious or not. Right now it's hard to say."

The archbishop of the Archdiocese of Moncton, Valery Vienneau, says the loss of the church will have a big impact on the community. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

'Very sad for the community'

Archbishop Valéry Vienneau was at the scene of the fire Thursday morning. He said before being a priest he was a school teacher in Cap-Pelé, and the church played a big part as a community centre.

"It's very sad for the community," he said. "Especially at this time of Christmas, because people tend to come back with their families and tend to come to church."

He said about 100 to 150 people attended the church before COVID-19, and people have been keeping up the old building and working hard on renovating and preserving it.

"It's so tragic also because they're losing something they've worked so hard on," Vienneau said.

The fire made quick work of the 105-year-old wooden church. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

According to the archdiocese website, construction of the wooden church began in 1903 and was completed in 1916.

It was hauled over the ice to its current location by horses the next year.

The building underwent major renovations in 1983.

A previous church in the community had been destroyed by fire in 1826.

With files from Radio-Canada and Kate Letterick

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