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Video released of the moments a Barrie church fire erupted causing over $2 million damage


Stunning video has been released from a fire that broke out at a downtown Barrie church last month.

Police believe they have the man responsible behind bars, while parts of the 140-year-old church are in ruins.

"Now that the police investigation has completed, we've had a chance to go and look at our own security footage and do our own investigation," said Mark Hoffman, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church's chairperson of the board of managers.

Surveillance video outside the church on February 19 appear to show a man walking up to the building and entering at 8:23 p.m. where church officials say an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting was already underway inside the church.

"We saw 28 people go into the building, continued to watch the footage as the meeting ended and saw 27 people leave," said Hoffman.

It wasn't until about an hour later Hoffman said that same man was seen leaving from the church's back door.

"Just seconds before flames started to come out of the library," Hoffman said.

Sped-up video shows flames erupting from the library, smoke billowing out within two minutes of the man leaving the church.

Seconds later, fire crews were called to try and get it under control.

Firefighters at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Sun. Feb. 19, 2023. (Courtesy: Michael Chorney / At the Scene Photography)

With the church still unsafe to enter, its members are forced to gather elsewhere.

"St. Andrew's actually started the Out of the Cold program, over, I think, 25 years ago. God calls us to be his hands and to care for people, and that includes caring for people who are marginalized and who may not be able to care for themselves," said Laurie Watt, communications coordinator.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Barrie, Ont. is damaged from a fire on Sun., Feb 19, 2023 (CTV News/Catalina Gillies)

Undeterred by this tragedy, Hoffman said the church ensured all community groups who used their building had liability insurance.

"And it should protect us in a situation like that," Hoffman said.

Police arrested and charged 37-year-old Lance Freeman with arson.

Freeman has battled mental health challenges for several years.

The allegations against the accused have not been tested in court.

The full extent of damage done to the building is still being assessed, though right now, it's estimated to have surpassed $2 million. Top Stories

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