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Two more churches go up in flames in South Okanagan

The Chopaka church on the Lower Similkameen Indian Band reserve in B.C. was destroyed by fire early Saturday morning.— Photo courtesy Chief Keith Crow

The Penticton South Okanagan Similkameen RCMP (PSOSRD) have opened an investigation after two more churches were destroyed by fire early Saturday (June 26) morning.

In a media release Saturday, the Princeton RCMP received a call at 3:52 a.m., the St. Ann's Catholic Church on the Upper Similkameen Indian Band (USIB) near the small community of Hedley was on fire.

Hedley is located approximately 74 kilometers southwest of Penticton and 38 km southeast of Princeton on Highway 3.

A short time later, at 4:45 a.m., the Keremeos RCMP received a call the Chopaka Catholic Church on the Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB) at Chopaka was on fire. 

RCMP said both churches have been destroyed and the fire at the church on the LSIB spread to nearby brush which was quickly extinguished by BC Wildfire crews before spreading further. 

"The PSOSRD RCMP are treating both of these fires as suspicious and are looking to determine any possible connection to the church fires in both Penticton and Oliver on June 21, 2021", said Sgt Jason Bayda, Media Relations Officer for the Penticton South Okanagan RCMP.

"The investigations into the previous fires and these two new fires are ongoing with no arrests or charges".

The PSOSRD RCMP continues to work with and support our local Indigenous leaders and communities.

Police are asking for anyone who may have witnessed anyone or any vehicle in the area of either church in the early hours of June 26 to contact the Penticton RCMP Detachment at 250-492-4300.

Last week two Catholic churches on Indigenous lands in Penticton and Oliver burned to the ground early in the morning on Indigenous Peoples Day.