Century-old church reduced to rubble after fire
Investigators in west Quebec say they found a gas can outside a century-old Catholic church that was devastated by fire and reduced to ruins early Thursday morning.
"Right now, we don't have some suspects. We have some evidence that shows it's possibly criminal," said Isabelle Poirier of the Gatineau police.
Police said along with the gas can, they found signs that the church was broken into. Officers said they also spoke to some witnesses, which lead them to believe the fire is linked to criminal activity.
Gatineau's mayor was on the scene Thursday morning as fire crews continued to drench hot spots at St-Paul's Roman Catholic Church, located at 61 rue du Couvent in the Aylmer sector of the city.
This is a huge loss for the community, said Mayor Marc Bureau, as he tried to comfort devastated parishioners who were mourning the loss of their church.
Parishioners remembered the francophone church and all the important events that were held there. Many said the church helped forge family connections, including many marriages and baptisms.
"My mom was married here and all my brothers and sisters were christened here. My kids were baptized here and some of them married here, so it's a big piece of history for Aylmer," one parishioner told CTV Ottawa.
A confirmation is scheduled at the church on Friday and a wedding is scheduled for this weekend. Right now, church officials say they are not sure where those events will be held.
In the meantime, parishioners are asked to attend St-Mark's Anglophone Catholic Church or St. M�dard Catholic Church, which are both located in Gatineau.
About 100 firefighters from Ottawa and Gatineau were called to battle the flames, which broke out just before 2 a.m. No one was inside at the time of the incident.
Officials say the fire was so intense, neighbouring residents were awoken by explosions and were forced to leave their homes.
"She woke me up and she thought the whole neighbourhood was on fire because from my backyard we couldn't tell what it was. We rushed outside to see the safety of our house and everything and the church was on fire," said one resident.
It's not the first time the church has been devastated by flames. The church, which was built in 1893, was rebuilt after a fire ripped through the building in 1904.
The church has been the subject of numerous renovations over the years. Parishioners were already in the midst of raising money to renovate the inside of the building.
Now, St-Paul Catholic Church is a skeleton of what it once was. The inside of the building is completely gutted and only parts of the building are left standing.
Still, the Catholic Archbishop of the Gatineau Diocese says although it's a huge loss for the community, the church will be rebuilt.
Like Christians do, we will come together and rebuild, said Archbishop Roger Ebacher.
The police investigation is ongoing.