2 Catholic churches destroyed in overnight fires in Okanagan

Two Catholic churches have been destroyed after separate overnight fires in the South Okanagan area of B.C.

The Sacred Heart Church on Penticton Indian Band lands was burned early Monday morning, the parish confirmed with CBC on Monday.

The St. Gregory’s Church, in the Oliver area on Osoyoos Indian Band lands, was also in flames around the same time.

Firefighters who responded to the latter fire around 3 a.m. PT believe it was arson.

“We believe by looking at the scene and the surroundings that there was a liquid accelerant used … Early indications are that it was set,” said Bob Graham, chief of the volunteer fire department in Oliver.

“The structure itself had burned and collapsed by the time we arrived. So I believe that it had been on fire for a considerable period of time before we were called.”

A pile of blackened rubble in the basement was all that remained by 9 a.m., Graham said.

St. Gregory’s Church on Osoyoos Indian Band lands, in an undated photo. (ctkoliver.org)

Catholic Father Obi Ibekwe said the parish would be waiting for results of an RCMP investigation before making further comment on either fire.

Penticton and Oliver are roughly 40 kilometres apart. Both churches were wooden and more than 100 years old, according to the parishes. St. Gregory’s was built in 1910 and Sacred Heart followed in 1911. 

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