News / Halifax

'A lot of sad faces' in North Preston after historic church significantly damaged by fire

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency was called to the St. Thomas Baptist Church in North Preston at 9:39 a.m. Wednesday.

People watch firefighters work at the St. Thomas Baptist Church on Wednesday.

Jeff Harper / Metro Order this photo

People watch firefighters work at the St. Thomas Baptist Church on Wednesday.

There were “a lot of sad faces” in North Preston after a fire damaged a historic church and community hub on Wednesday, but the fire department says the building is still salvageable.

“The church is to a lot of people, including myself, your everything,” said church member Neville Provo, who works across the street at the North Preston Community Centre.

“The church is our rock. Without our church, we’re absolutely nothing. There’s a lot of people who feel that way and a lot of sad faces today.”

Provo was one of the first people at the fire after a meeting at the community centre was interrupted when an employee spotted the blaze.

A firefighter walks along Simmonds Road in North Preston towards St. Thomas Baptist Church, which was damaged by fire Wednesday morning.

Jeff Harper/Metro

A firefighter walks along Simmonds Road in North Preston towards St. Thomas Baptist Church, which was damaged by fire Wednesday morning.

“I thought it would only be a matter of minutes that it would be burning out of control. Once they arrived and got that water on it, it stopped it quickly,” said Provo who was brought up in the church and whose family has attended for generations.

Halifax police say the fire at St. Thomas Baptist Church in North Preston, N.S., was reported at 9:41 a.m.

No one was hurt, but the rear of the wooden building was left with a gaping, charred hole.

"When crews arrived we had a significant fire in the back of the building. It was in a crawl space, so they did have a little bit of difficulty locating the fire," said Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency division commander Kevin Dean. 

Firefighters work to clean up the side of St. Thomas Baptist Church.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Firefighters work to clean up the side of St. Thomas Baptist Church.

"There is significant damage to the church, but as you can see, it's salvageable."

St. Thomas Baptist Church, established in 1856, has undergone multiple renovations and construction. The fire department said the fire was between a false wall, making it difficult to locate. The fire left water, smoke and fire damage at the back of the church.

It’s expected the church congregation will meet at the community centre as it has in the past when the church was being renovated.

“Our people are the church, so no matter wherever we come together, that will be the church for the time being,” Provo said.  

RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Clarke says foul play is not suspected, but the provincial fire marshal's office has the option of investigating.

With files from The Canadian Press

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