Fire hits Abbotsford church while Vancouver police report spike in vandalism at churches

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      After several churches across B.C. has been hit by fires or vandalism, yet another church in B.C. has been targeted with fire—this time in the Fraser Valley.

      Meanwhile, Vancouver police reported that there’s been an increase in vandalism at churches in the city, and expressed concerns about the potential danger for people to be harmed.

      Abbotsford

      According to a news release from the Abbotsford Police Department (AbbyPD) that was issued today (July 22), officers responded to a report of a fire around 8 p.m. on July 21 on the south side of Central Heights church at 1661 McCallum Road in Abbotsford.

      Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service also arrived at the location and extinguished the fire.

      The church had been closed and unoccupied at the time of the fire, and no one was injured. The church sustained minimal damage before the fire was extinguished.

      After reviewing surveillance footage, investigators identified a suspect, who is described as a dark-skinned male with an average build. This individual appears to be about 30 to 40 years old, is 173 to 178 centimetres (five-feet, eight-inches to five-feet, 1-inches) tall.

      At the time of the incident, this suspect was wearing a grey baseball hat, a bright yellow rain jacket, a white muscle shirt, blue/green shorts with a pattern, and black and white shoes, and was carrying a dark brown or black backpack.

      Abbotsford police continue to investigate the fire, which “is considered suspicious”.

      Any witnesses or anyone with dashcam footage is asked to contact the Abbotsford Police Department.

      Vancouver

      The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) announced today that it has seen “a major spike in crimes at religious properties” in recent weeks.

      Since June 2, the VPD has been investigating 13 incidents of mischief and vandalism at churches or on church properties, including rocks being thrown through windows, buildings being defaced with paint, and threats to set buildings on fire.

      Among the incidents are:

      • an unidentified individual threatened to burn down a church in South Vancouver on Canada Day (July 1);
      • two women threw orange paint on to the side of a church in Renfrew-Collingwood at 10:45 p.m. also on July 1;
      • someone threw a rock through the window of a church in Kitsilano sometime between July 4 and July 7;
      • four people dressed in black vandalized a church building near Little Mountain around 9 p.m. on June 8. They threw red paint on property, posted signs, and painted graffiti that referenced residential schools;
      • a pastor at a South Cambie church, who was making his early-morning rounds on July 20, discovered a gallon of lighter fluid and rags at the side of the building at 4 a.m., and he also saw a “suspicious” man standing in the middle of the road staring at the church.

      Most of these incidents have taken place at night or during early-morning hours.

      “Fortunately, nobody has been hurt in these Vancouver incidents and most of the damage has been minor,” VPD spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison stated in a news release. “However, we’re growing more concerned each day by the escalation of these crimes and their brazen nature, and we’re calling on the people responsible for these crimes to stop. There are more productive ways to voice your anger and express your views.” 

      Addison explained that police are concerned these incidents “could escalate into a situation where someone gets badly hurt”.

      Investigators are still gathering and examining evidence, and are searching for potential connections between incidents. No arrests have been made thus far.

      Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to contact the VPD and anyone who sees crimes in progress is asked to call 911 immediately.

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