(The remains of the Murray Church after a fire that destroyed the building on Jan. 11.)
Merritt RCMP and the Merritt Fire Department were kept busy overnight Friday as two local churches were struck by fire.
According to RCMP Const. Tracy Dunsmore, the first fire alert came in from the Merritt Crossroads Community Church on Voght Street.
“Officials were alerted to the Crossroads Church fire at around 2 a.m. across from the detachment here,” Dunsmore said. “Arson is suspected in that fire.”
Dunsmore added that fire officials were able to get the fire out quickly before significant damage occurred.
While RCMP and fire crews were still attending to the Crossroads Church fire a second call came in from the community of Nicola reporting that the historic Murray Church was ablaze.
“When you have two churches being burned in the same community with hours of each other is its “definitely suspicious” Dunsmore added. “We are in the early stages of our investigation, so information is limited.”
While officials would not confirm arson was the cause of the Murray Church fire, the structure did not have electricity or a heating system in it that could have caused the ignition.
Area resident Jack Polmans told Q101 news that the loss of the Murray Church is shocking for the community.
“It’s devastating to our community,” Polmans said. “A lot of work has been done to the building over the last three years including painting and we really had it looking good.”
Polmans added that over the past few years, the Murray Church had employed a summer student to give guided tours to visitors.
The Murray Church was built in 1876, and according to Polmans was not insured to be rebuilt.
The Merritt RCMP are encouraging anyone with any information on these fires can contact the detachment or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
more to come