Williams Lake RCMP confirmed Monday they are investigating the church fire at Tl’esqox (Toosey) and are asking anyone with information to contact police.
Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau, media relations, said the RCMP were notified of the fire at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, July 14, and upon arrival police officers found the church partially burned to the ground.
“Several community members has attempted to extinguish the fire, but were not successful,” Linteau said, noting no one was injured as a result of the fire.
Anyone with information is asked to call the RCMP at 250-392-6211 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Sunday, July 15
An historic Catholic Church in a First Nations community 50 kilometres west of Williams Lake was completely destroyed by fire Saturday.
Tl’esqox (Toosey) Band councillor Clay Palmantier told the Tribune he began getting calls about the fire from other band members at around 6 a.m. on July 14.
The cause of the fire is unknown at this time, but is under investigation, he added.
As the community does not have an active fire department, local residents used garden hoses to try and protect the house next door.
“I guess the heat was so intense from the fire it was impacting the vinyl siding of the nearest home,” Palmantier said.
While the church had not been in use recently, Palmantier said it is a loss for the community.
“A lot of people don’t believe in the Catholic religion because of the residential school history, but many of our elders have lots of memories connected with the church. They were married, baptized, had Christmas services and funerals there. I was even baptized there.”
A few years ago Palmantier arranged to have the church repainted and said it was looking great.
“It was a beautiful historic church and now we’re left with a black ugly mess. It’s disappointing, but thankfully no one got hurt and we didn’t lose the home next door.”
The timing of the fire is unfortunate as well, he added.
“We are having a grand opening Monday of our brand new youth and elders centre which we finally got completed,” Palmantier said. “We have all these people coming and now we’ve got this fire.”
A call has gone into the Kamloops Catholic Diocese for comment.