Arson suspected in Melbourne church fire

Victorian police are investigating a blaze last week at St Paul's Church Coburg which caused $2 million damage only a year after another fire destroyed the parish's community centre.

The Moreland Leader reports the Victoria Police forensic unit and MFB fire investigation teams have found two points where the fire started at the rear of the Sydney Rd church, next to the former Pentridge Prison, about 5pm last Thursday.

Five baptisms and four weddings scheduled for the weekend were moved, and daily Mass has been temporarily moved into a portable room behind the century old church.

Fifty firefighters took almost an hour to control the blaze and save the building.

"It was a fairly intense fire, and the fact that it was so high up, it was a difficult fire to fight," Fire Brigade Commander Mark O'Connor told the paper.

Parish priest Father Sean O'Connell said it was the second fire for the church community in the past year, after the hall opposite the church was razed.

"This is far worse than the community centre fire, because it creates far more difficulties in catering for baptisms and weddings," he said.

Crews also worked to protect a precious organ valued at $500,000. Firefighters spread tarpaulins over the instrument to stop water damage as they extinguished the fire.

St Paul's Primary School principal Paul Sheedy said the church was the heart of the community and that it would be difficult for parents and students when school returned next week.

"There's a lot of hurt and sadness in the community at the moment," Mr Sheedy said. 


Suspicious fire rocks Coburg church (Moreland Leader, 31/3/08)



Wedding turmoil as Coburg church burns (CathNews, 28/3/08)

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