Fire at historic Listuguj church destroys documented stories from elders

·2 min read
The Listuguj church was used for Sunday morning church services, funerals, baptisms and weddings. (Const. Jesse Doiron/ Listuguj Police Department - image credit)
The Listuguj church was used for Sunday morning church services, funerals, baptisms and weddings. (Const. Jesse Doiron/ Listuguj Police Department - image credit)

A historic church from the early 1900s in Listuguj First Nation caught fire and burned to the ground overnight.

The fire at St. Anne's Church started around 10:30 p.m. Monday. Fire crews were still on scene Tuesday, putting out hot spots.

"The structure itself is still smoking," said Const. Jesse Doiron of the Listuguj Police Department, who's also a volunteer firefighter.

Tuesday morning after the historic church caught fire.
Tuesday morning after the historic church caught fire.(Const Jesse Doiron/ Listuguj Police Department)

The fire, which broke out at the centre of the building, was brought under control in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Doiron said the church was used for weddings, baptisms, funerals and Sunday morning church. It was the only church in the community.

"You name it, it was still used every day," he said.

'A grieving process'

Listuguj Chief Darcy Gray said the church was also used as a place for people to gather and honour the community's history.

People played Bingo and held safe graduations inside the building, which also housed documented stories from elders.

"Things given to us from people that passed," he said. "There was a lot in there and we're dealing with that as a community now. It's a bit of a grieving process"

Gray spotted the fire from outside his home Monday night.

"My son described it this morning as a once-in-a-lifetime event. [We'll] probably never see anything like that again."

He said the fire started in the kitchen and spread from there.

"It's a huge structure and just to see it go up section by section, and then eventually get everywhere, I don't think anyone in the community couldn't see it," he said. "It was just huge."

The only things left are stones and bricks from the structure built more than 100 years ago.

Gray said the community is in shock and disbelief.

The elementary school and nearby businesses have closed for the day, so residents can process what happened.

"Just trying to process how much of a loss it is," he said. "It's a different kind of loss to everybody, we all have a different connection … it's still a significant piece to our community with a longstanding history."

Cause of fire under investigation

Doiron said the cause of the fire is still undetermined and is under investigation.

The Listuguj Fire Department and Pointe-à-la-Croix fire departments in Quebec were both on scene. The Campbellton Fire Department was also on scene.

Without that aid, Gray said, the fire could've easily spread to homes near the church.

"Without them I don't think we'd be able to suppress it. Without there help this would've been a whole other situation."

There were more than 20 firefighters battling the blaze. There were no injuries involved in the fire.

Streets in the immediate area are closed today until further notice.