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Suspects sparked Peace River church fire with Molotov cocktails: RCMP

Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, located at 10405 99 St. in Peace River. Courtesy: Our Lady of Peace

Suspects threw Molotov cocktails through windows of a northwestern Alberta church on Saturday, igniting a fire, RCMP confirmed Sunday.

Emergency crews responded to Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, located at 10405 99 St. in Peace River, after 11 p.m. on Saturday.

Read more: RCMP investigating southern Alberta church fire as arson

Police said an unknown number of people threw bottles that were on fire through church windows. No suspects have been identified.

‘Rise above the occasion’

Father Nel Esguerra said in his Sunday sermon that he and the bishop were alerted by the fire alarm.

“I rushed to the church. As soon as I opened the door… there was already a thick, black smoke developing,” he said.

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“The moment I saw the glass of the door was broken, I said to myself, ‘Oh my God,’ so I quickly did some effort to put out the fire,” he said, adding he saw a Molotov cocktail.

“As I was putting out the fire while waiting for the fire department, which we are grateful for their great assistance, I was telling myself, ‘I’m not going to let this church burn down.'”

RCMP said the fire department was able to put out the blaze, noting there was minimal damage.

There were no injuries, according to police.

Read more: Langdon man charged after RCMP say fires deliberately set on Siksika Nation

Esguerra wanted to save the parish because it baptized attendees’ children, celebrated love through marriages and mourned lives with funerals.

Getting mad at the perpetrators is the easiest route to choose, he said, adding we always have a choice on how to react to tragic events.

“At this time, when we feel so vulnerable, I feel all the more that we are stronger to rise above the occasion such as this,” he said.

“When we see fire, our initial reaction is to put it out to prevent more damage from being done. We do not add wood to keep the flame and do a lot of damage.

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“And this is exactly how we should react at this moment. We don’t let the church be burnt with anger and revenge but we kill it with compassion and kindness and forgiveness and reconciliation.”

The fire is under investigation.

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