Arson attack on church could have been worse
Porirua Gospel Chapel members are devastated by the torching of their Sunday school in one of a series of Queen’s Birthday arson attacks, but quick thinking has saved them from a bigger loss.
The fire was the third lit, at 8:30pm on June 4 at the back of the church, and set alight a large storage cupboard in the Sunday school room containing equipment used in the church’s social work.
‘‘It’s a bit of a mess. I estimate the total would be about $70,000 with repairs and everything,’’ Brian McGettigan, PGC elder said.
‘‘It’s not nice, we put the time and effort into it and then someone comes and does this and I think the whole church was a bit gutted when they walked in and saw what had happened.’’
A morning church service was held the day after the fire so people connected to the church could see the damage together as a community, he said.
‘‘The kids had a look at what had happened and their parents were there to explain it.’’
Much of what was destroyed was for the church’s community outreach, including a bank of 18 computers used for a school holiday programme to keep Cannons Creek youth off the street, dress ups for dramas and resources for an English language programme, which were all destroyed.
However, if not for a lucky glance from a church member living next door, things could have been much worse.
‘‘She was in her bathroom and looked out and saw the church on fire,’’ Mr McGettigan said.
‘‘ Because she acted very quickly and dialled 111 and the fire brigade got here so quickly the fire was far less than what it could have been.
‘‘ The polystyrene packing around the computers caught very quickly, there’s a lot of heat in it and the plastics they are made of.’’
‘‘ It would have just about exploded out if the fire brigade hadn’t got there, and the whole chapel would have burnt, it was amazing they got there so quickly and put it out. They did a fantastic job in controlling it,’’ he said.
The spot the fire was lit seemed to indicate knowledge of the building, Mr McGettigan said, and along with the fact the next fire lit was at a gospel chapel in Wainuiomata shortly afterwards, he wondered if there was a connection between the arsonist and the church.
Six fires were lit in Porirua, along with PGC – at Tony’s Tyre Service, St Albans Church in Pauatahanui, a house near Kenepuru Hospital, a Portaloo in Tawa and Horouta Marae.
A 43-year-old Porirua man appeared in Lower Hutt District Court last week, facing 11 charges including arson, attempted arson and theft.
DAMAGED: Church member Bill Hiku at the scene of the fire in the Porirua Gospel Chapel.