HALIFAX – Police are investigating a case of arson at St. Andrew’s United Church in Halifax.
Firefighters responded to the church, located at the corner of Coburg Road and Robie Street, around 11 p.m. on Sunday.
Investigators say they don’t believe anybody was inside the church when the fire occurred.
Halifax Regional Police spokesman Const. Pierre Bourdages said the blaze was deemed suspicious due to multiple factors.
“I can’t really comment on specifics, but the totality as to how the fire was presented and was found led fire investigators to believe that arson is suspected,” he said.
Gary McCurdy, a division commander with Halifax Fire, said there was extensive smoke and water damage throughout the church.
He said it’s still not known whether the fire caused any structural damage. McCurdy said a grand piano in storage was also damaged.
Russ Daye has been minister at St. Andrew’s United Church for nine years. He said the blaze has shut the building down indefinitely.
“We have a fair bit of fire damage in the some of the offices and hallway in the lower hall area. We have some damage in the sanctuary around a musical instrument and some smoke,” Daye said.
The minister said the church is moving activities such as workshop services, meetings and weddings off site to other churches.
Despite the rash of fires at St. Andrew’s, Daye said his faith has not wavered; instead, he said it has been strengthened.
“On the one hand, it’s painful and frustrating to go through this experience a couple times.”
“But I say my faith in the community and in the support of other Christians and people of other faiths has actually grown. The number of messages we received from other churches, from our partner organizations like Phoenix has been really heartening.”
Tanya Dalton, the owner and director of Little Ladybug’s Childcare Centre, which has operated on the lower level of the church since 2009, was emotional as she surveyed the destruction.
“[It’s] disheartening. I’m definitely holding it together,” she told Global News.
“My office is gutted. That’s completely gone. Everything that was in there is gone as well. The hallways obviously have a lot of smoke damage and debris. The seniors classroom is good. there’s just water along the floor in my juniors and toddlers room.”
Dalton said 46 families use the daycare service. She informed parents early Monday morning that they would have to find alternate arrangements for their children.
She expects parents will have to use alternate daycare services for the next few days until a temporary space is set up at the University of King’s College. She said it may be up and running by the end of the week.
“We’re just coming together, keeping it day by day and we’ll just move forward from here,” Dalton said.
Bourdages said police do not have any suspects and are asking anyone with information to contact police.
“It’s brazen to light fire to anything really. If it’s in a residential area or an abandoned building or abandoned church in this case, we do hope people will have information as to who is responsible if they have seen anything suspicious and help us put this thing together,” he said.
This is not the first fire at the church. In the early hours of May 12, police and fire crews responded to a small blaze that caused minimal damage.
Police say it is too early to tell whether the two incidents are related.
Police said that fire was started with a pile of cardboard inside the church.
© Shaw Media, 2014