They were left devastated when both the St. Elias the Prophet Ukrainian Catholic Church, in Brampton Ont., and Aurora United Church, in Aurora Ont., burned to the ground within one week of each other last April, right before the Easter holiday.
In Brampton, it was a rogue spark from an incense stick that started the blaze on April 5.
"I walked across and went over to the far side … and watched for two hours as the church went up in flames," said St. Elias' Father Roman Galadza.
Rev. Andy Comar of Aurora United Church said that image of Brampton's burning church is still etched into his memory. But it was less than a week later, on April 11, 2014, that fate dealt him the same hand. The fire that destroyed the nearly 140-year-old historic church was declared an accident caused by a team of roofers who were working with boiling tar.
The church did not have a sprinkler system.
"We got a call from the secretary saying, 'You've got to get down here. The church is on fire.' We arrived, set up in the parking lot and watched firefighters arrive," Comar said. "We knew as the day progressed, this was not going to be a good thing."
Little could be salvaged from either church's charred remains, but plans to rebuild are already under way. In Brampton, an outpouring of donations has helped to expedite that process and Galadza said he hopes to see shovels in the ground as early as May 2015.
The church, originally built not long ago in 1995, will once again be constructed thanks to fundraising efforts made by the community. More than $450,000 has been raised towards rebuilding St. Elias church, with contributions coming in from around the world, including one private donation of $250,000.
Galadza said the entirety of that single donation will likely be dedicated solely to replicating invaluable paintings claimed by the fire.Suggest a correction