Edmonton church fire sparked by ceremonial smudging materials

EDMONTON — A fire that seriously damaged an Edmonton church earlier this week was caused by smouldering herbs from a ceremonial smudging, according to officials.

The 107-year-old Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples went up in flames Sunday afternoon after a blaze broke out on the ground floor.

No one was injured, but the fire did about $350,000 of damage to the building and its contents, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services confirmed Tuesday.

They traced back the fire to smouldering herbs, cedar and other combustibles improperly discarded in a metal coffee can left in the corner of a room.

Pastor Susai Jesu said he was eating lunch next door when he saw the smoke and flames.

“Very, very hard (to watch). I’m just taking the name of Jesus every minute. That’s all I can do at this time. Help us put out this fire,” Jesu told reporters Sunday.

Indigenous people have been gathering at the church for decades, said Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith.

“Their hearts will be crushed. This is a sad, dark day for all of us. But certainly for the parishioners,” he said.

The church has been rebuilt before following a fire in 1966.

Smith said the church will be rebuilt following the latest fire as well.

EFRS advises people to use deep, non-combustible containers to discard smouldering materials and to soak said materials in water before throwing them away.

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