Fire at Okotoks Alliance Church believed to have been deliberately set

Officials at a southern Alberta church are disappointed that someone started a fire that damaged the children’s wing but are hoping the suspect or suspects get the help they likely need.

Reverend Terry Lee, senior pastor of Okotoks Alliance Church, tells CTV News that he first learned of the fire when the church’s alarms went off shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday.

“(I) started getting phone calls and the fire trucks were here by the time we got here,” said Lee. “They had responded really quickly to discover that the windows at the rear of the building had been smashed through and accelerant had been spread and then a fire had been lit.

“The damage in the north wing, which is our children’s wing, has been fairly substantial, in terms of smoke damage and such, but it was contained to that part of the building.”

Lee says gasoline had been splashed and ignited within the building, and containers of gasoline had been abandoned outside the building.

The reverend was merciful in his approach to those who started the blaze.

“It’s disappointing, obviously. It points to the fact that someone is disturbed and, if they’re disturbed, they need help and we want to offer whatever help we can. If it’s  — God forbid — a vendetta against God or against the church, let us make it right as best we can. If it’s just someone who is sick, let us help you get help.”

As of Wednesday, a restoration crew was on scene and assessment and clean-up efforts were underway. Lee said the fire was not expected to alter this coming Sunday’s services but plans were in place to secure trailers to host the children’s ministries and community organizations that rely on the damaged space.

“We are very grateful for the patience of the folks in our community who have come to really rely on this space we provide to them on a week-to-week basis and it’s been an inconvenience, perhaps, more to them then to the church itself, and we are looking forward to hosting them again.”

RCMP are investigating the suspected arson and are asking anyone who may have witnessed suspicious activity early Sunday morning in the area near the church to call the Okotoks RCMP detachment at 403-938-4202 or anonymous tips may be submitted to Crime Stoppers.

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