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Pittsburg church community devastated after early morning fire guts sanctuary

Pittsburg church community devastated after fire guts sanctuary
Pittsburg church community devastated after fire guts sanctuary 02:36

PITTSBURG (CBS SF) -- An early morning 2-alarm fire erupted inside Pittsburg's Pentecostals of the Bay Area church Friday leading to a partial collapse of the building.

The fire was first reported at about 2:45 a.m.  and arriving firefighters found the blaze well established in an auditorium style building.

The roof fell in and the building partially collapsed, forcing firefighters to take up defensive positions.

Contra Costa Fire Protection District Capt. George said the fire sent burning embers into the sky, but no other structures were damaged. Cooler temperatures on Friday morning probably helped keep the fire from spreading to other buildings.

"We've been here since about 4 o'clock this morning when I heard the news that the church caught on fire," Pastor Elias Limones told KPIX 5. "We are all kind of surprised and shocked.

Nearly ten hours after the fire started, flames were still jumping from the partially collapsed building. Finally knocking the fire down required so much water, and produced so much runoff, that public works crews struggled to keep the storm drains clear.

Firefighters on the scene after a fire gutted The Pentecostals of the Bay Area church in Pittsburg on May 27, 2022. CBS

"My son was born in this church," said Church Member William Browne as he watched the building burn. "I got married in this church. This has been a spiritual haven for us for many years."

"It's hit us hard," said Pastor David Browne. "We've done so much work on the sanctuary for 22 years, building it up. For this to happen, it's absolutely tragic."

The Pentecostals spent more than 20 years transforming what was once an old movie theater it into their own sanctuary. On Friday, members came by to see the aftermath for themselves and offer each other support.

"Even to pray," Limones said of those gathered. "These are very difficult times, of course. It's to be expected that people are very surprised, and saying 'why.' I don't know why. It's normal to question why things happen."

"You know, every now and then we go through trials and tribulations," William Browne said. "But it brings out the best in us."

Church leaders told KPIX 5 they do not yet know the road ahead, but they will meet as soon as this weekend to discuss the first steps. Meanwhile, the congregation says there is no question that they will, somehow, move ahead.

"We are definitely going to move forward," Browne said of what's next. "God is going to give us a victory. We believe, and we are trusting that everything is going to work out for our good in the end."

"You know, they are very positive people of faith," Limones said of his church members. "They believe we are going to build back better. We are going to move forward, build something greater than before. So I'm very happy with their spirit."

Church leaders said they have solved one immediate problem, and that's a location for this Sunday. They have been invited to hold those services at Pittsburg High School.  

The cause of the blaze not immediately known. No injuries were reported.  

Around 5:30 p.m. Friday, firefighters announced they were removing walls that remained at risk of collapsing. Firefighters said once the building is made safe for investigators to enter, the investigation would continue.

Wilson Walker contributed reporting.


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