Six people safe after Kitchener church thats being demolished catches fire

Six people safe after Kitchener church that\s being demolished catches fire
Church fire in Kitchener caused by homeless trying to keep warm, fire officials say
A fire that took nearly 10 hours to extinguish in downtown Kitchener was set by people who were homeless trying to keep warm, according to fire officials.

Kitchener Fire Platoon Chief Terry Gitzel said the fire was in a difficult part of the building to reach, and it wasn't extinguished until 10 a.m.

The fire was immediately deemed suspicious because the building was in the process of being demolished and power had already been cut off.

By noon on Thursday, fire officials said they believe the blaze was caused by people who are homeless trying to keep warm in the structure.

\”We couldnt do a lot of interior attack because it is a demolition zone,\” said Brooks. \”Its not really safe to go inside so its hard to say how much damage, but from the aerial point of view, it looked like it burned out one of the rooms.\”

Kitchener, Ont. crews have put out the fire at the former Trinity United Church at 74 Frederick Street, Thursday Nov. 15, 2018. (Gary Graves/CBC)

\”They found six homeless inside; we believe they lit the fire to stay warm,\” said Rick Brooks, fire prevention officer. All six made it out safely and the fire did not spread to any nearby buildings.

Six people were inside an attached portion of the building when the fire started, and all got out safely, fire officials said.

At about 1:30 a.m. the Kitchener Fire Department was called to Trinity United Church on Frederick and Duke streets, where smoke was pouring out of a portion of the building.

The YWCA Emergency Shelter next door had to be evacuated during the fire. More than 100 people were moved around the corner to St. Andrew's Church. They were able to return to the shelter after breakfast.

The church has sat empty in the downtown for more than a year. Its now being torn down to make way for a 33-storey condo tower.

CEO Elizabeth Clarke said staff at the shelter were aware that people were sleeping in the empty building.

As a safety precaution, the YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo Emergency Shelter for women, next door to the church, was evacuated.

"It's not at all an unusual situation. Our administration office is in the downtown, just a block away and we have people sleeping in our underground parking lot at night. I think everywhere there are people who are sleeping rough," said Clarke, who is also a Region of Waterloo councillor. "When there's an empty building, that's a very inviting place to go. It's private, and it's sheltered, and you can come and go."

Platoon Chief says there were people sleeping inside the abandoned church when they arrived, those people were safely evacuated, fire appears to be out, crews remain on scene @570NEWS pic.twitter.com/6ZVMjlpoaT

She said their women's shelter has been over capacity since the fall, and their emergency overflow shelter has been near capacity in recent weeks.

Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to call police 519-570-9777 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

"Our biggest concern is that between the fire department and the owner of the building that something be put in place to ensure that people aren't staying there and this doesn't happen again because it could have been more serious," said Clarke.

Trinity United has been empty for over a year now, so that it can be torn down to make way for a high-rise building.

"There's a lot of water on the ground that's turned to ice, so it'll be very slippery. So if people can avoid that area it would be very good for them," Gitzel said.

Waterloo Regional Police Service said the damage is estimated at $100,000, though the building was in the process of being torn down.

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A fire at a church, that is set to be demolished, forced the closure of major roads in downtown Kitchener on Thursday morning.

Fire officials say it started around 1:30 a.m. in a section that is an addition to the rear of the Trinity United Church.

The building is set to be demolished, making it not structurally sound for crews to fight the fire from inside.

Fire officials say there is no power to the building which leads them to believe this fire is suspicious.

Frederick Street and Duke Street remain closed and will be for majority of the day as crews continue to investigate.

Fire officials say the fire started around 1:30 a.m. in a section of the church that is an addition to the rear of the Trinity United Church. (Marta Czurylowicz/ CTV News)

Environment Canada says parts of southern Ontario will receive the first major snowfall of the season starting Thursday.