Crews investigating fire at church thrift store in central Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- For years, the thrift shop at St. James Episcopal Cathedral provided help to those in need.

Monday morning, a fire sparked -- destroying just about everything in its path.

"When crews arrived, they had heavy fire showing from an outbuilding that was used for a thrift store," says Fresno Fire Battalion Chief Devin McGuire. "We were able to get crews in a good aggressive attack and we were able to get the fire knocked down."

All that's left: Scorched shingles and siding.

"One woman was standing next to me in tears looking at it and said 'I spent my entire high school years in that building. That's where our youth group used to meet.'" says St. James Dean Sam Coley-Toothaker.

He says he's thankful nobody was hurt in the fire and that it didn't spread.

"Two of the buildings were close by and because the fire department did a wonderful job, they were unscathed," he said.

Several fire engines and dozens of firefighters battled the flames.

The Fresno Fire Department is investigating the cause of the fire.

"People are precious, they're not easily replaced and so the church is not about buildings, it's about people who belong to the community," Sam said.

The thrift shop will be out of commission for a while but the church does plan to rebuild and reopen.

Leaning on his faith, Dean Sam is using this setback as a way to pause and reflect.

From the ashes -- a lesson rises.

"Hug a loved one a little closer, make sure you're telling people around you that you love them and make sure your priorities are straight," he said.
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