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VIDEO: Church fire caused $2M in damages 'and still counting'

Officials at St. Andrew's in downtown Barrie have released surveillance video showing alleged arsonist's movements that night

The damage from an alleged arson at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in downtown Barrie has reached at least $2 million and that price tag is expected to rise.

While the Feb. 19 fire that caused extensive damage to the library of the Owen Street building continues to keep the parishioners out of the church for the time being while repairs are completed, St. Andrew’s representatives are continuing to get more information about how the alleged arsonist may have gained access.

And a newly released video, which is part of the police investigation, appears to tells part of that story.

Mark Hoffman, who is chair of the church's board of managers, shared the surveillance video with BarrieToday.

In notes provided with the video, Hoffman described what was happening that night.

At 8:23 p.m., the person believed to have started the fire arrives at a meeting being held by an outside group at the church.

At 10:16 pm., a little while after the group meeting had left and others had exited the building, that same person is seen leaving church via the back door with “flames visible just seconds after the subject leaves the church."

Other smaller fires were set around the neighbourhood of the church that night.

At 12:42 a.m., Feb. 20, Barrie police arrested and charged 37-year-old Lance Freeman, of no fixed address, with three counts of arson and failure to comply with probation order. Freeman remains in custody and none of the allegations have been tested in court. 

Laurie Watt, who is the communications coordinator for St. Andrew’s, said there is no information on what exactly was used to start the fire, but added “we are above $2 million and still counting” in damages.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church remains closed, but is in the hands of the church representatives.

The City of Barrie had previously asked church representatives to obtain the services of a professional engineer to evaluate the damaged area and provide direction for any action or repair that may be needed. That could include temporary support to stabilize the structure.

With a city-issued ‘do not enter’ order on the building due to safety concerns, deputy chief building official Christopher Grexton said on Friday there were no updates on the situation and “the city has not yet received an application for a building permit.”

The St. Andrew's congregation had been gathering for Sunday services at Collier Street United Church, but are now worshipping at Steckley-Gooderham Funeral Home, just a couple blocks from the fire-damaged church.

Hoffman said the change happened last Sunday (March 12) and allows St. Andrew's "to worship together as a church family."

Meanwhile, St. Andrew's is still using offices at Collier Street United. 

It's unclear how long the rebuilding process will take, with one church official previously suggesting it could be up to eight months. 

St. Andrew’s opened its sanctuary on the corner of Owen and Worsley streets on Feb. 25, 1883. A Christian education wing was added after the First World War and that is where the fire occurred. 

The library was where many church artifacts were housed, including the original wooden doors from the building's Owen Street entrance.