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Fire Rips Through Santa Ana Church Just Weeks Before Unveiling Of Renovation Project

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SANTA ANA (CBS) —An overnight fire destroyed a section of a Santa Ana church which had been undergoing renovation, authorities said Sunday.

The blaze raced through Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, where a renovation project was just weeks from completion.

There were no injuries reported.

Clanging alarms and sirens roused church pastor Father Alfredo de Dios at about 1:30 a.m. De Dios lives in a rectory near the landmark church built in 1922 at Third Street and Grand Avenue.

“I woke up because of the noise outside, so I went out,” Dios said.

“I saw the fire and trucks and flames in the church. … At first I thought it was a nightmare when I saw the fire. I thought maybe it’s not real.”

The fire was brought under control at about 2:45 a.m.

A preliminary investigation indicated the cause of the fire may have been faulty electrical wiring, but the investigation was continuing, according to Stephen Bohannon, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.

Workers were close to finishing a $1.2 million renovation project that included earthquake retrofitting, Dios said. Now Diocese officials and parish leaders will meet with an engineer to talk about what it will take to fix the damage, the priest said.

Parishioners have been dropping by all day to check out the damage and many have volunteered to help clean up so the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration can be held at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dios said.

“Some of them cry when they see their church,” Dios said. “They try to cheer me up saying, `Don’t worry, father, don’t worry, everything’s going to be OK.’”

The church draws a sizable following on weekends, with an average 6,000 attending services, Dios said.

Parishioners have been gathering for services in a newer portion of the church that is protected by a firewall, Bohannon said. Fortunately, that firewall did its job, which is why parishioners will be able to go ahead with Sunday’s celebration, despite some water damage, he added.

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