'It's very sad': Flames devour United Church in Pacquet

People in Baie Verte Peninsula community of Pacquet are mourning the loss of their historic church after a fire destroyed it early Tuesday morning.

"All hope is gone," Janet Sacrey, the Pacquet town clerk, told CBC News by 9 a.m., as photos showed the flames spreading through the roof of the building.

It's a total loss. - Jodie Matthews

Sacrey woke up around 5 a.m. to the sound of people yelling outside.

"I heard people calling out, bawling out — and then the sirens," she said.

When she looked out the window, Sacrey saw smoke billowing out from the United Church.

"Couldn't believe that one of the last historic sites in our community, the United Church, the smoke was just towering out and I saw fire trucks," Sacrey said.

According to Fire Chief Jodie Matthews, everything has been destroyed but the big brass bell that fell from the top of the church.

"The roof is caved in, the steeple's gone. Siding is … she's completely burned out. The fire is still uncontrolled," Matthews said.

"It's a total loss."

Matthews said her crew was called to the fire around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. At about 5:30 p.m. crews had to battle another flare up which has prompted the fire department to keep firefighters on scene all night.

Crews from Woodstock and Baie Verte were also on scene to help

Submitted by Janet Sacrey

There's no word on what caused the fire but the building was up to date on all its fire codes and assessments, Matthews said. She is expecting investigators to have more answers in the next few days.

Matthews said it has been an emotional experience for her firefighters, many had to fight back some tears while trying to calm the flames.

"It's not just your regular everyday emergency ... To lose such a historical part of our community, it's a devastating loss for everyone."

'People are just devastated'

Meanwhile, Sacrey said as far as she knows, no one was injured, but people are upset.

The building, which Sacrey said was built around 1956, is still used every Sunday for worship.

Submitted by Janet Sacrey

"People are just devastated and questioning why and how, how did this happen," Sacrey told CBC's St. John's Morning Show. "Where do you go from here? … We go on, but it's very sad."

Sacrey said the church is in the centre of the town, but she doesn't believe there is any risk of the fire spreading to other structures.

"Everything is working well, thanks to our fire department for that," she said, adding volunteers are setting up a refreshment station at the town hall for emergency responders.

Submitted

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