Investigators work to determine cause of church fire in San Jose

Santa Clara County arson investigators are working to determine the cause of a fire that damaged a church in San Jose.
March 21, 2014 11:56:25 AM PDT
South Bay arson investigators are getting some federal help in the search for the cause of a fire that damaged a San Jose church.

The ATF has been notified. That's standard protocol when there's a fire at a church. But right now the investigation is in the hands of the Santa Clara County Arson Task Force. They are trying to figure out what started this fire.

The fire and brimstone wasn't coming from the pulpit, but shooting out of the windows of the administrative office for the Church of God of San Jose.

The flames were first spotted Friday just before 5:30 a.m. by the senior pastor's family inside their home next door.

"I looked out my bedroom window and I saw a bunch of flames and some smoke rising up," said Sandi Hunt. "I woke up the family and I just said everybody get up the church office is on fire."

Firefighters kept the flames to one room. The trees never had a chance to catch fire. The church's chapel on Minnesota Ave. was safe. Was it divine intervention? The San Jose Fire Department? Or possibly both?

"The best solution is to knock the fire down and that prevents the embers," said SJFD Capt. Mike Van Elgort. "As you can see behind me that's what we've done."

Church of God workers and volunteers tried to salvage what they could from the office. Flames, smoke, and water did a lot of damage.

They have insurance, but money can't replace the records and history collected from a church that is several decades old.

"We've got two pastors and a regular secretary, worship leader, finance, bookkeeping all in this place," said Randy McNeil. "Now I don't know what we're going to do. It's all gone."

The arson task force is expected to remain on scene for several more hours.


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