The Murray United Church in Merritt, B.C. (Amrit Samra/unitedchurches.wixsite.com)

Suspicious fire at Merritt church considered possible hate crime

Arson probed in loss of Murray Church, fire at second Merritt church

A nearly 150-year-old church has been destroyed by a suspicious fire in British Columbia’s southern Interior, one of two blazes at Merritt-area churches early Friday.

The historic Murray United Church on Highway 5A in the Nicola Valley was built in 1876.

Merritt Fire Rescue Department Capt. Carl Johnston says the single-room building was engulfed in flames by the time crews arrived and the structure could not be saved.

The Crossroads Community Church in Merritt was also damaged by fires.

READ MORE: Man wanted in ‘apparent hate crime’ involving gay couple on SkyTrain

Johnston says the cause of the fires are under investigation and the RCMP has taken over the files.

The Murray Church is described on its website as the oldest building in the valley and the only building still standing made with local Nicola Valley Lumber.

Const. Tracy Dunsmore says the Crossroads fire is a confirmed arson but officers are still gathering information at the Murray blaze and are appealing for help from the public.

READ MORE: Hate crimes in Canada spiked by nearly 50% last year

“Two churches within an hour and there (are) definite arson signs there, so we are looking for any information,” says Dunsmore.

She says arson to a church is considered to be a hate crime.

The Canadian Press

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