Surrey Fire Chief Larry Thomas says investigators have not been able to determine what caused the blaze that destroyed St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Whalley because of extensive fire damage.
“It’s definitely a suspicious fire and it was likely human caused but there’s no evidence of what the ignition source was or how it started, and that’s largely due to extensive fire damage,” he told the Now-Leader. “There’s nothing definitive. Most fires, unless you find the gas can or you find and accelerant, it’s hard to say that it was purposefully set. It’s suspicious, definitely, and it’s likely caused by a human, but we just can’t find any evidence on how it was started.”
The fire broke out at the church, at 13905 108th Ave., on July 19. Police were called to the scene at 3:17 a.m. Nobody was injured as the church was empty at the time. It happened five days after an attempted arson at the church, in which police say video surveillance footage confirms a woman lit “items” on fire at the door.
Police continue to look for that woman in connection with the first fire.
Thomas noted “that site has a high volume of traffic of people that are unhoused, and so there’s always traffic through there after hours, in the evening.”
Sergeant Elenore Sturko said police have recovered video surveillance equipment from the ruin.
“It will likely take several days at least before we know whether or not they are functional,” she said. The electrical equipment was within a housing, “but it was burnt so we don’t know whether or not we’ll be able to use anything from it.”
As for the first fire, Sturko said police are working on tips.
“I can’t give you any more information but we’re making progress in that investigation,” Sturko said Friday. “We’ll let everybody know as soon as we have things to release to the public.”
Meantime, a GoFundMe fundraising campaign had by Friday morning raised $10,087 of its $200,000 goal to help the congregation of 250 families rebuild their church.
Video surveillance footage of suspect in first fire, July 14