A fire destroyed much of San Gabriel Mission on Saturday morning.
What We Know:
- Firefighters responded to the church where they found a massive fire engulfing the roof and front entrance. While firefighters tried to force their way into the church, the roof caved in and began to fall. Twelve fire departments tried to contain the fire for three hours. No civilians were inside the church and no firefighters were injured.
- Luckily, firefighters saved many objects and artifacts from the fire dating back to the 1700s. Fire Chief Steven Wallace said “firefighters were able to remove historical artifacts and some artwork from the path of the blaze”. Attached to the church is the Mission Museum. Much of the museum was saved from the flames but it sustained damage to the roof and smoke and water damage.
- Prior to the fire, the church was being renovated for its upcoming 250th anniversary celebration. Members of the church thanked the community and first responders on Instagram. They also created a Fire Restoration Fund and are asking for donations.
- The church has caused some controversy in recent years because of their statues of St. Junipero Serra. Serra was a Spanish priest who established the church in a series of missions across California. He is also responsible for countless atrocities against indigenous populations in America, brutally destroying their culture and forcing Catholicism on them. Pope Francis elevated Serra to sainthood in 2015. Recently, protesters have toppled statues of Serra across California because of what they represent to indigenous people. San Gabriel Mission moved their statue of Serra out of public view.
San Gabriel Fire Captain Antonio Negrete said they will investigate vandalism as a possible cause for the fire. Police increased patrol and security around the church about two weeks ago.