Surveillance video of the evening of Feb. 19, 2023 shows a community group let the man Barrie Police later charged with arson in to the building and did not ensure he left.
The video, put into context by Mike Arsalides of CTV news Barrie can be watched at https://barrie.ctvnews.ca/video-released-of-the-moments-a-barrie-church-fire-erupted-causing-over-2-million-damage-1.6315584
Board of Managers chairman Mark Hoffman initially turned the church’s video security system over to Barrie Police. The footage has been examined by police as well as the Ontario Fire Marshal.
The fire was started in the library, in the southeast corner of the church’s Christian Education wing, which was added just after the First World War. The sanctuary, located on the corner of Owen and Worsley streets in downtown Barrie was opened in February 1883.
Damage is estimated at more than $2 million, but specialists continue to examine the structural integrity of the building and assess the damage. Although contained to the Christian education wing, the fire has caused a lot of smoke and water damage and soot covered almost the entire building.
“Absolutely everything had soot on it,” said Simcoe County Archivist Ellen Millar, a life-long member of St. Andrew’s, and who has a graduate degree in archival studies.
“Some of (the soot) is toxic. Some of it was very thick.”
The intense heat caused by the fire has also caused anything with plastic to become unsafe, as well as any dishes and glasses to be too risky to use, as their structural integrity could also be compromised by the heat and therefore possibly shatter when in use.
The commercial kitchen, which the church opened to user groups renting the gathering hall, will have to be gutted and restored.
Anything that would risk health and safety of anyone is having to be thrown out – and this includes mementos such as a hand-made nativity scene. Millar and her mother will create a new one to replace the one children have enjoyed for years.
Millar has attempted to rescue mementos such as communion silverware and some seasonal, handmade banners, but she added soot is very damaging to material that is white, so not everything may be salvageable.
“It broke my heart saying ‘no, no, no’,” she told a special joint meeting of the church’s elders and board of managers.