According to the Fillmore Fire Department, they responded about 4:50 a.m. to a report of a fire in the 900 block of 3rd Street, the Christian Evangelical Church.
Mutual aid was requested from Ventura County Fire and Santa Paula Fire departments.
Upon arrival firefighters found the three-story steeple fully involved in flames below electrical power lines, which prevented firefighters from entering the one-story church.
Those flames were also threatening several surrounding structures including the pastor’s residence.
Firefighters attacked the main fire and fanned out to protect the other structures including the pastor’s home. The family of five was able to exit their home without injury.
Eventually, the steeple collapsed into the church and the fire was knocked down by 5:42 a.m.
Santa Paula Assistant Fire Chief Vern Alstot said six engines responded to the scene including SPFD Engine 81.
“The fire was fully involved,” and Alstot noted Fire Chief Keith Gurrola described it as flames shooting out of the steeple, “ ‘Like a Roman candle’.”
The cause has not yet been determined but Alstot said it was likely accidental.
He noted that the church appeared to have been built in the 1940s or even earlier: “It had that knob-and-tube wiring that a mouse could nibble on and start a fire.”
The church was a total loss and the pastor’s home yellow-tagged by Fillmore Building & Safety. The pastor and his family could not return to their home because electrical service was disconnected; the Red Cross helped them.
Other churches in Fillmore reportedly offered their facilities to the pastor and Spanish-speaking congregation of the Christian Evangelical Church.