HACIENDA HEIGHTS (CBS) —  The fire that destroyed a Catholic church in Hacienda Heights just after midnight, causing an estimated $8 million in damage was an act of arson, officials said Sunday.

The 12:04 a.m. blaze at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, 1345 Turnbull Canyon Road, burned for about 2 1/2 hours before county fire crews were able to quench it.

“The extensive structure fire has been confirmed as an act of arson,” said Capt. Mike Parker of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau. “We are actively investigating to identify the suspect responsible.”

The Arson/Explosives Detail of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will now lead the investigation.

A priest was treated at the scene, possibly for smoke inhalation, but he was believed to be OK.

The devastating fire caused pain in the hearts of parishioners. KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports.

Peters said firefighters, who were unable to enter the church, used a “surround and drown” approach.

“It was a defensive fire, so they fought it from the outside,” he said. “No one went inside. It was totally engulfed.”

The blaze was declared out at 2:34 a.m.

Sheriff’s Lt. Joe Chavez of the Industry Station estimated damage at $8 million.

Anyone with more information was urged to call sheriff’s arson investigators at (323) 881-7500. Tips can be left anonymously by texting TIPLA, plus the information, to 274637, or via the Crime Stoppers website at crimestoppers.org

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Comments (15)
  1. Rich Rodriguez says:

    The opening statement that the St. John Vianney congregation has lost its church is somewhat misleading, though not intentional. As stated by parishioners and the reporter, services have been moved to the parish hall, and that while the sanctuary’s loss is devastating the church is made up of the people, not the buildings.

    I am moved and inspired by how St. John Vianney’s is responding to this deliberate attack on their property and their faith. In other parts of the world this is called religious persecution.

  2. Riles Jones says:

    Yep…the investigators need to take a long look at the muslim community…they are attacking Christians all over the world…why would they not do it here?

  3. drozone69 says:

    If it is a Synagogue it is anti-semite/terrorism front page splash.If it is a Church it is simply arson.Obviously a double standard.

  4. JOHN says:


    1. joel says:

      liar. it was probably an angry church member, frustrated with the politics of the church.

  5. john says:

    maby it’s not korans we should be burning , you know what i mean.

  6. Minnie says:

    May our good Lord give more strength and hope to the all the priests at St. John Vianney and also the faithful parishioners specially this time of repentance and forgiveness. God be with them and may they all be blessed abundantly.

  7. an American says:

    I believe it is the muslum’s. Their faith is based on hating Americans, and death to anyone not of their faith. They are using the American way of freedom-of-religion to entrench their twisted religion into our soil. Careful, Americans! Our president is one of them. Why else would they be allowed to build their church practically on the very soil of the Twin Towers the muslums destroyed in typical cowardice.

  8. Toni says:

    Rushing to judgment only fans irresponsible behavior. Please consider the impact of your statements. An investigation has only just begun. This is a dreadful act. I have attended many a mass at St. John’s, my brother’s wedding, a dear friend’s brother’s funeral mass, Holy Week, Easter services.
    St. John’s has always been a strong parish. I know they will “Keep calm and carry on.” the famous phrase posted in the London Underground during the fire bombings of WWII.
    Peace to one and all.

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