Fire destroys church under construction in Pittsburg

A fire on Friday morning destroyed a new shrine under construction at a church in Pittsburg, while damaging part of its existing kitchen.

The fire, which erupted shortly before 7 a.m., destroyed an addition to the Cathedral of St. James of Faith, which had been under construction since before the pandemic took hold in early 2020 and was over half completed, according to David Diouf, youth pastor. at church.

The fire also caused approximately $ 100,000 in damage to the existing structure, mostly in the kitchen, said Capt. Tracie Dutter of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Dutter said. No one was injured and firefighters found no one at the scene when they arrived, she said.

The fire marked the most recent and most difficult turning point for the church in its attempt to become a new shrine in honor of its former pastor, the Reverend James Langston, who died a few years ago.

The new addition had been broken into at least 10 times by homeless people seeking to sleep inside the partially constructed building, Diouf said. An encampment sprouted on vacant land behind the building, and church members had to board the new shrine on several occasions after people were found living inside.

“Every time they are taken out, they come back,” Diouf said. “It’s very onerous for a church our size to have to hire security guards to secure the church and keep people out. “

Construction costs for the project have so far reached at least $ 1.5 million, Diouf said.

Despite the fire, Langston’s widow Pastor Maria Gardner Langston said the church was planning to hold its next service in the parking lot – just as it had done earlier in the pandemic.

“These are the times when you have to live up to what you preach,” she said.

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