ARIZONA: Fire Destroys Adventist Church in Phoenix

ire blazed through the North Valley Spanish Adventist Church in Phoenix on the evening of February 7, collapsing the roof and steeple and leaving the church in ruins.

The local KTVK news team reported that when firefighters arrived on the scene shortly after 9:00 p.m., flames were already shooting through the roof. Crews determined the situation was too dangerous for them to go inside, and a few minutes later the church’s steeple and roof collapsed into the building. According to KTVK, it took firefighters about an hour to douse the flames. No injuries were reported.

Phoenix Fire Department chief Mike Sandulak announced two days later that the fire had been intentionally set, using some type of accelerant. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is also investigating the blaze. According to The Arizona Republic online news report, the North Valley Spanish church is the eighteenth Phoenix church of many denominations and various demographics that has burned since 2000 because of arsonists.

Adventist Risk Management Corporate Communication representatives told the Adventist Review that the 1,800-square-foot building was valued at about $140,000. Claudio Martin, pastor of the 170-member congregation, says he and the church members plan to rebuild.

"We appreciate the outpouring of support from the community and neighboring churches," says Arizona Conference treasurer Kent Sharpe. "The loss of their church home is a very sad event for North Valley's memebers and Pastor Martin. Prayers for the congregation are appreciated during this difficult time."

Arizona is part of the Pacific Union Conference territory. Each week more than 200,000 Adventists worship in 663 churches in that region.                                                --Sandra Blackmer, news editor, Adventist Review.

AUSTRALIA: New South Wales Church Damaged by Flames

Fire severely damaged the Windsor, New South Wales, Adventist church in the early hours of January 18. According to preliminary reports, the fire broke out in the church building at about 5:30 a.m., which took five teams of firefighters 90 minutes to extinguish.

“It was a very sad day,” says church pastor James Fletcher. “It was hard to believe such a thing could happen.”

For the past six months church members have been working on a new kitchen and restroom, which were nearing completion. These areas, along with children’s Sabbath-school rooms and the church hall, were not damaged by the flames.

“We now face a much larger challenge,” says Fletcher. “It will take most of the year to rebuild and repair the damage.”

While the gothic-styled building and its contents were insured, several irreplaceable items--including the original marriage register, an old piano, and the hard-carved pulpit--will be lost forever.

The fire comes as the church prepares for its fiftieth anniversary. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Church members will continue to meet in the undamaged church hall, and Fletcher describes their first Sabbath there as a somber “time of reflection.”

“It proved to be a blessing as the members have given each other support,” he says. “While the church building has been destroyed, the church family will be stronger and will work together to face the challenge of rebuilding.”

Support has also come from the wider community with expressions of support and sympathy, while a number of other church groups have offered the use of their facilities. “We would like to say thank you for the support we’ve had,” Fletcher says. “We know the Lord is still with us no matter what happens."--Record/AR.

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