Arsonist targets Visalia church, ruins couple's wedding plans

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Before the bride could walk down the aisle, Visalia Police said 36-year-old Charles Spurlock started a fire at Trinity United Reformed Church. (KFSN)

A bride and groom were forced to change the location of their wedding Sunday after a homeless man sets their original venue on fire, Visalia Police said.

"Frustrating but we forgive him," Pastor Adrian Dieleman said. "He still needs to repent. It's a two-way street."

Dieleman is a pastor at Trinity United Reformed Church in Visalia and said the Children's Room of the church was damaged after a man broke in Saturday and started a fire now.

The damage will cost the church more than $15,000 to repair.

"I'm thankful it was only things and not people," Dieleman said.

Things like song books in the church were surrounded by broken glass and charred furniture.

There was even a $6,000 piano with warped keys that is no longer functional.

"The soundboard is swollen and the heat probably has not helped it," Dieleman said. "The water certainly did not help it and you open up here and the belt is all wet."

Visalia Police said 36-year-old Charles Spurlock is responsible for starting the fire and just hours before John Van Hofwegen was supposed to walk his daughter down this aisle.

He said his pastor was the one who broke the news to him.

"I thought, 'Wow, what are we going to do now,'" Van Hofwegen said. "It was 1:30 p.m. when he called and the ceremony was supposed to be at 4 o'clock."

But the place where the reception was scheduled came to the rescue. Van Hofwegen said the owners at Koetsier Ranch allowed the family to have the ceremony there as well.

It was a last-minute decision the bride, who dreamed of standing next to her groom in front of the altar, had to let soak in.

"She reacted very well," Van Hofwegen said of his daughter. "We were concerned because this was her wedding day and we had planned this for months."

Van Hofwegen said after they moved everything over and informed the guest of what happened, everything came together perfectly and the wedding started just 45 minutes late.

It was an experience he said became a true testament of what marriage can be like even on the first day.

"Sometimes in marriage things don't go exactly the way you plan and this was an example of that," Van Hofwegen said.

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arson investigationarsonchurch firetulare countyVisalia
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