The fire alarm sounded at 10:42 p.m. Wednesday with all three Molokai engine companies responding. Engine 4 was first on the scene and was quickly followed by engines 9 and 12. It took about two hours to get the fire under control with mop up operations continuing through the night. Emergency crews shut down the town last night for safety. Yesterday morning fire crews could still be seen spraying water and foam in the smoldering ruins.
An investigator came in from Maui yesterday to help determine the cause of the fire. Molokai Fire Inspector Rick Schoneley began the preliminary investigation and took photos but no cause has yet been determined. While some speculated, including Father Clyde Guerrero, that the devotional candles may have set the blaze, this is still speculation at this time.
Father Clyde, pastor of the Saint Damien Parish, said that St. Sophia has held its last service. With the entire insides blackened it cannot be saved. Father Clyde said an insurance company inspector will come to Molokai Tuesday to determine the extent of the damage but he believes the building will most likely be demolished.
The church, built in 1937, has been in need of replacement for some time. Since 1995, the Molokai Catholic Community has been working to raise the $3 million needed to rebuild Saint Sophia as Blessed Damien Church in honor of Saint Damien who was canonized in October.
On January 5, the Maui County’s Urban Design Review Board recommended a special management area permit for approval by the Molokai Planning Commission.
The church serves about 300 families on Molokai. Other churches in the area have already offered their worship space to the Catholic community until a new church is built.
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