Fire at historical landmark church in West Oakland being called suspicious by investigators

Tara Campbell Image
Saturday, May 18, 2024
Bay Area church fire being called suspicious by investigators
The Oakland Fire Department says they believe the cause of the fire at St. Andrew Missionary Baptist Church is suspicious.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A fire at a historical landmark church in West Oakland is being called suspicious by investigators.

"Inside the remainder of the church it's all smoke damage," said Pastor Robert Lacey, pointing to the devastating damage to St. Andrew Missionary Baptist Church.

One week ago, a fire started outside on the property, spreading to the church, where the pastor and parishioners were inside rehearsing for a service.

"Myself and one of the other parishioners thought it was small enough to fight it and at that point, windows started exploding inside at it was time to leave, time to go," he explained.

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About 60 firefighters were battling a fire at 27th and West streets in West Oakland on Friday night, the Oakland Fire Department said.

The Oakland Fire Department says they believe the cause of the fire is suspicious and that they are still investigating.

"We're just at a point now where we're still numb to the fact that the fire was set. It wasn't because of any structural errors," said the pastor, noting they are now trying to salvage what they can of the designated landmark.

"It was nominated in 2007 to be a historical landmark because of the significance of the building.

The church was built in 1910 to house African American Oaklanders displaced by the 1906 earthquake, later becoming a home to the Black Panther movement, and more recently serving as a school, which did encounter some scandal.

It now serves a small congregation.

Tara: "Do you have any reason to believe, or why, anyone would want to do this?

Pastor: "No. I just think this area is prone to this activity and I regret our church has suffered from it."

"It was just a total shock. I couldn't believe this was taking place," said Elizabeth Curry, Pastor Lacy's mother, who has a long history with the church.

Tara: "You don't know anybody who would want to do this, or have a reason to do this on purpose?"

Elizabeth Curry: "No not all, I never dreamed of such a thing, I had no idea."

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And the pastor says they are turning their focus to restoring what they can, as fast as they can.

"There are seniors that take advantage of the computer lab, community members that fill out applications, that come here for support and now we can't provide that support because of what's happened. So we're moving as fast as we can to get those services back."

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