UPDATE: RCMP investigating after two churches destroyed by fire on Similkameen band lands | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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UPDATE: RCMP investigating after two churches destroyed by fire on Similkameen band lands

Saint Anne's Catholic Church
Image Credit: waymarking.com

The RCMP is investigating two suspicious fires that destroyed churches on Upper and Lower Similkameen band lands this morning.

The Princeton RCMP received a call that the Saint Ann's Catholic Church on Upper Similkameen Indian Band land was on fire June 26, at 3:52 a.m. At 4:45 a.m., the Keremeos RCMP received a call the Chopaka Catholic Church on Lower Similkameen Indian Band land was on fire, according to the RCMP in a media release.

Both churches have been destroyed. The fire at the Chopaka church spread to nearby brush which was quickly extinguished by B.C. Wildfire crews before spreading further, according to the RCMP.

Earlier this week, two Catholic churches, one on Penticton Indian Band land and the other on Osoyoos Indian Band were also destroyed by fire. Police deemed both incidents to be suspicious.

"The (Penticton South Okanagan Similkameen Regional Detachment is) treating both of these fires as suspicious and are looking to determine any possible connection to the church fires in both Penticton and Oliver on June 21, 2021," said Sgt Jason Bayda, media relations officer for the Penticton South Okanagan RCMP, in the media release.

"The investigations into the previous fires and these two new fires are ongoing with no arrests or charges."

Chief Keith Crow, of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, said he received a call about the fires early this morning.

“It was just ash when I got there,” he said, in reference to the Chopaka church. “It’s frustrating. We do have elders and people that still utilize that church. We just had a service in it a few weeks ago and it’s really unfortunate for those who have positive memories there. We’re not happy.”

"It's going to be under investigation. It's too much of a coincidence that they both happened at night," Crow said.

READ MORE: Separate fires destroy two Catholic churches in southern British Columbia

Police are asking for anyone who may have witnessed anyone or any vehicle in the area of either church to contact the Penticton RCMP Detachment at 250-492-4300.

- This story was updated at 1:40 p.m. to include comments from the RCMP.

- This story was corrected at 9:45 a.m. to correct the location of the Upper Similkameen Band church.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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