DELANO, CA - Members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Delano are seeing what can be salvaged after an early morning fire. Even though firefighters have marked the sanctuary unsafe, members there say services will go on.
Soggy and soot-covered Bibles and books sit outside the church following a fire that nearly broke Carmen Lara's heart.
"Oh gosh, it's doing flip flops right now. I've been here since I was a day old. I was born a block away from the church, and this is my second home. This is, it's just so sad. It's just so sad," said Lara, the church's past council president.
Volunteers started cleaning off what they could at first light. The fire started started just before 2 a.m. Monday in the sacristy, where everything used for mass is stored. While the service garments can be cleaned, many things can't be saved.
"And, they always say in the church, you know, it's not just the building it's the people. You know, it's a little scar on the building, but the people are going to come together and make things work, you know," said Andy Ruperto, a priest intern.
Parishioners like Justin Alvarez, walked over to see what was left of his church after he learned of the fire.
"That's what is about Delano. We are a small community and we help out a lot of people within, and this church helps out a lot with the community too," said Alvarez.
Fire investigators haven't determined the cause of the fire, but members suspect it was electrical. While the wiring had been upgraded in the base of the building, the wiring in the roof had not. Whatever the cause, it chewed through enough of the building to leave it unsafe. So, the congregation will now have to turn to their hall next door for services and to each other and their faith moving forward.
"Scary part is everyone is so close to Christmas, you know. You've got other expenses, but our parishioners have always pulled us through. We've got a lot of businesses that support us. The faith is there. We've just got to go on that," said Lara.
Damage is estimated to be $100,000. While members say they believe insurance should cover most, they say they will be relying on donations and will hold food fundraisers as needed to get the money.