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Arsons destroy pair of rural Alberta churches: RCMP

A church near Barrhead, left, and Glenreagh Church, right, were destroyed in intentionally set fires on Dec. 7, 2023, according to police. (Photos provided.) A church near Barrhead, left, and Glenreagh Church, right, were destroyed in intentionally set fires on Dec. 7, 2023, according to police. (Photos provided.)
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Two churches in Barrhead County, about 120 kilometres north of Edmonton, were destroyed in intentionally set fires, Mounties say.

Firefighters were called to the Glenreagh Church – also known as St Aidan’s Church – on Range Road 40 just before 8 p.m. on Thursday.

Edith Strawson and her family surveyed the damage Friday.

Her father helped build the church more than 100 years ago. She got married here and so did some of her children, like Darren.

"It’s been in my family forever," Darren Strawson said.

Edith said she and her family will help rebuild the church.

"We’re putting this back together. We just can’t let that happen and just leave it," she said.

An hour later, police were called to the United Church – also known as Pioneer Church – on Range Road 54.

No one was hurt in the fires, but the United Church burned to the ground and the Glenreagh Church was heavily damaged, police said.

"It's unknown at this time if they are related. Just due to the proximity and the timing of each, we maybe believe that it could be related. But until those files are completely investigated, it's unknown if they are linked," Const. Kelsey Davidge told CTV News Edmonton in an interview.

Police are looking for a two-toned older truck that was seen near the Glenreagh Church scene.

Investigators have asked anyone with information to call Barrhead RCMP or Crime Stoppers.

Davidge also said local RCMP will be increasing patrols in the area of other churches.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith posted about the fires on X, formerly Twitter.

"To the parishioners of these churches and to the Christian community across our province, I stand in solidarity with you against all forms of hate," she wrote.

"These acts are condemned in the strongest possible terms and those perpetrating these crimes must be brought to justice. I am closely monitoring this unfolding situation along with Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis"

Since 2018, Alberta RCMP have investigated 13 church fires, according to the constable.

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