A “suspicious” early-morning fire has destroyed a Surrey church, scene of an arson attempt less than a week ago.
On Monday (July 19) just after 3 a.m. the blaze broke out at St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, near 108 Avenue and 139 St. in Whalley.
Surrey fire officials have said there were no injuries, and that damage was contained to just the church.
“At this time, Surrey RCMP is working with the Surrey Fire Service to investigate the cause of the fire,” Surrey RCMP said in a news release Monday. “Investigators must wait for the debris to cool before further work can be completed; however, this fire is being treated as suspicious.”
Police say that last Wednesday, July 14, the church was the target of an attempted arson, reported to police after damage was discovered on the door of the church.
“Surveillance video confirmed that at approximately 2:33 a.m. on July 14, a female suspect lit items on fire at the door of the church and immediately left the area,” the RCMP news release said.
The suspect is described as a Caucasian woman, 5’7” tall, with a heavy-set build, and dark hair. The woman was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, a black tank top, black tights with a flower print, and black flip flops.
Investigators are asking anyone with information related to either of these investigations to contact Surrey RCMP (604-599-0502) or Crime Stoppers (www.solvecrime.ca, 1-800-222-TIPS).
“It is important to note, that although both of these incidents are suspicious, there is currently no evidence linking these two separate investigations,” according to RCMP.
St. George has a congregation of roughly 250 families, as of around six years ago.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is an ancient church founded on the teachings of Saint Mark, who brought Christianity to Egypt during Nero’s reign in the first century A.D.
There are more than 50,000 Coptic Orthodox Christians throughout Canada, with 74 priests serving some 40 churches.
Coptic church pope Tawadros II was in Surrey in September 2014, on his first papal visit to Canada. He performed the liturgy at St. George Coptic Orthodox Church and also visited St. Mary Coptic Church before attending a special luncheon at the Sheraton hotel in Guildford.
The interior of St. George church is shown in video posted to the congregation’s YouTube channel, and the church is online at stgeorge.ca.
Contacted Monday morning by the Now-Leader, the church’s Father Bisenty Abdel-Messih Gergis was unable to speak about the fire.
with files from Tom Zillich and Tom Zytaruk