Fire destroys historic northern Ontario church

A historic northern Ontario church was destroyed Wednesday evening after a wildfire spread to the nearly 70-year-old structure.

Church of the Infant Jesus near Longlac caught fire Wednesday evening

The Church of the Infant Jesus near Longlac burns on Wednesday evening after a grass fire spread to the structure. The church, which was built nearly 70 years ago, was destroyed in the fire. (Tim Griffin/Submitted)

A historic northern Ontario church was destroyed Wednesday evening after a wildfire spread to the nearly 70-year-old structure.

Greenstone firefighters were called to the Church of the Infant Jesus, located on Long Lake, just west of Longlac, at about 7:10 p.m.

The church, which was located on Long Lake #58 First Nation territory, became engulfed in flame after a nearby grass fire spread. Firefighters were on the scene until about midnight, Greenstone mayor Renald Beaulieu said, but the church was completely destroyed in the blaze.

"They were just trying to contain the fire," he said. "I think there's still some asbestos in there, in that kind of a building, which was also a concern."

A 'sad moment'

The church was built in 1949, but closed in 1997. Still, Beaulieu said, it was an important landmark in the community.

"That was like an icon for us," Beaulieu said of the church. "It was a sad moment for some of the residents."

Beaulieu went to the scene Wednesday as the fire was burning, and recalled seeing "an elderly lady, and she was just crying."

There was no word Thursday on the cause of the grass fire. Representatives of Long Lake #58 First Nation couldn't be reached for comment.

There were no injuries in the fire.