Concord, California – Investigators with the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District said late Friday a two-alarm fire that left church badly damaged a day earlier originated from underneath a crawlspace and was caused by human activity.
Firefighters initially responded at 5:32 a.m. Thursday to the fire reported at the two-story Christ Community Church of the Nazarene at 1650 Ashbury Drive near Clayton Road and Galindo Street and extinguished it about 40 minutes later.
The fire caused the roof to collapse and the second floor to collapse onto the first, so investigators could not enter the building until Friday after heavy construction equipment was brought in to make sure the structure would not collapse further, fire district spokesman Steve Hill said.
“It’s not an easy job digging through all those layers of rubble,” Hill said, adding that the district also brought out a cadaver dog to make sure no one was inside the building at the time of the fire.
Contra Costa County Fire Protection District investigators and construction workers work at the scene of the Thursday morning fire at Christ Community Church of the Nazarene in Concord, Calif. on Friday, May 14, 2021. A two-alarm fire that started in the early morning of May 14, destroyed the church’s old sanctuary, classrooms, and community areas. (Photo courtesy of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District)
According to fire investigators, the blaze started in the crawlspace underneath the church near sleeping materials and other items that appeared to belong to someone who was temporarily sheltering under the structure unauthorized.
Investigators, however, weren’t able to determine whether the fire was intentionally set or whether it was an accident.
No humans remains were found in the crawlspace and no other injuries were reported, fire officials said.
The church’s pastor, the Rev. Janelle Maher, wrote on its Facebook page to thank the firefighters who responded to the blaze and other community members who have offered help.
“So many kind people reached out to check on us from our surrounding Concord community, friends and loved ones of our current congregation, and many of our former members,” Maher wrote. “We are so grateful for your support and prayers. We care deeply for our community as well, and look forward to providing the same support, care and compassion to you in your time of need.”
Fire officials are urging anyone who may more information about the blaze to call the arson tip line at (866) 502-7766. Tipsters can remain anonymous.