A fire destroyed a historic church in the Roseneath area on Tuesday night, the third major suspicious fire in the community in the past three weeks.
The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal has been called to Church Road to investigate an overnight blaze which destroyed the St. James Anglican Church — an active building which was erected in 1863 about 1.5 kilometres north of the village of Roseneath. The area is about 50 kilometres south of Peterborough.
Firefighters with Alnwick/Haldimand Township Fire Department were called to the scene around 10:35 p.m. They arrived to discover the church fully involved.
Crews remained on scene overnight battling the fire.
According to the church’s webpage, the church was built by pioneer families at a cost of approximately $800. The church held services each Sunday and maintained an active outreach program.
Rev. Bryce Sangster says he received a call about the fire and rushed to the scene.
“I couldn’t believe … although I heard that it was quite the blaze … about how far gone it was,” he said. “There’s virtually nothing left.”
Sangster said his congregation will be “devastated.” An average Sunday has about 15 members.
“Two Sundays ago, we had a dedication of an altar cloth for a woman who had recently passed and we had paid tribute to a man who does a lot of work on the tower. And yet now it’s all gone — all that work, all that stuff is gone. This church was for family farms.”
Sangster said mass will be held at the Alnwick Civic Centre on Sunday at 11 a.m. Parisonhers can also attend St. George Anglican Church in Hastings or Christ Church in Campbellford.
“This is a pillar in the community. When you shake a community to its timbers, they rise up and become defiant that they will not allow a setback like to have a prolonged impact,” said Ross Stevenson, parishioner for 20 years. “A number (of us) are emphatic that we rebuild.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation but is considered suspicious in nature, the third such fire in less than a month.
“The fact of the time of night, an unoccupied building and without any reason it starts on fire — and based on the history of other two fires — we’ve contacted the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office,” said Alnwick/Haldimand fire chief Mark Diminie.
On March 19, fire destroyed a historic house under renovations on County Road 45. On March 26, a blaze destroyed a commercial building which housed a real-estate office located a few doors down from the March 19 fire scene.
Northumberland OPP confirmed to Global Peterborough they are investigating the fire and were on scene Wednesday morning. Officials with the OFM arrived around 12:20 p.m. to begin their investigation.
“There’s a lot of history and pride here,” said Diminie. “I know there are going to be a lot of devastated people with the loss of this building.”
Township mayor John Logel expressed condolences to those who lost property in the recent fires and thanked emergency responders for their efforts.
“I have been in regular contact with authorities from our local fire, police and paramedic services, and have directly expressed council’s full support and appreciation for their ongoing coordinated efforts to keep our community safe,” he said.
He urged residents to assist police with the ongoing investigations into the fires by calling in tips to the Northumberland OPP at (905) 372-5421 or by calling the non-emergency line (888) 310-1122 or call the Peterborough/Northumberland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or submit information online.
WATCH: Suspicious fires in Roseneath in late March