MORINVILLE, Alta. – Mounties are investigating after a church was burned to the ground near Edmonton.
Mounties in Morinville say they were called to the fire at St. Jean Baptiste church around 3:20 a.m. Wednesday.
Morinville's St. Jean Baptist church burns to the ground in a fiery blaze.
It was built in 1907, and was declared a historical site back in 1975.
— Courtney Theriault (@cspotweet) June 30, 2021
Homes and businesses around the fire had to be evacuated overnight, including a home for the elderly.
The RCMP detachment says both the town and victim services are helping settle those who had to leave their homes as a result of the fire.
Iain Bushell, Morinville’s general manager of infrastructure and community services, confirms the church has been lost.
WATCH: Greg Tulloch captures the moment the fire sends the top half of the church burning to the ground.
He says the fire was so fierce that firefighters could not enter the 114-year-old building and the roof collapsed a short time later.
Bushell says the two main steeples and front facade of the church are completely gone.
“Certainly the timing is unfortunate, given that it is a rather iconic Catholic Church in our community and with the timing of sad events that have been uncovered in the country, right now,” Bushell said Wednesday in a phone interview from the scene.
Four small Catholic churches on Indigenous lands in rural southern British Columbia have been destroyed by suspicious fires and a vacant former Anglican church in northwestern B.C. was recently damaged in what RCMP said could be arson.
The fires happened less than a month after the discovery of what’s believed to be the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C.
The Cowessess First Nation in southeastern Saskatchewan also announced last week that ground-penetrating radar detected 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School.
Police believe the fire is suspicious and are probing it alongside fire investigators.
There’s no word yet on what a cause may be.