NORTH MIAMI (CBS4) – A fire which destroyed a North Miami church may have been sparked by fireworks.

On Thursday, the Reverend James Pasteurin of the Eglise Evangelique des Pelerins, or “The Pilgrim Evangelical Church”, is still trying to grasp the loss of what has taken nearly two decades to build.

“That’s 19 years worth work we’ve put in and it’s totally destroyed,” said Pasteurin.

Pasteurin said neighbors who lived near the church, on the corner of NW 119th Street and 13th Avenue, told him they saw kids playing on the building’s roof with fireworks on Wednesday afternoon.

“That’s what everyone is saying, kids playing on the roof with firecrackers,” said Mayelin Ortega.

Ortega showed CBS4’s Peter D’Oench surveillance tape of the blaze that was captured by one of the two cameras on the business on Northwest 119th Street that is run by her and her husband.

“It was real bad, real bad,” Ortega told D’Oench. “My husband and I were at the beach and someone called us and said there was a big fire at the building across the street.”

The tape shows dark smoke and flames shooting out of the church. The time stamp on that tape says 5:58 p.m. It took some 60 firefighters to put out the blaze.

“I think if this was started by fireworks, the parents need to talk to their kids,” said Oretega. “This was terrible.”

Firefighters said they weren’t sure that fireworks caused the fire.

“There’s always the possibility of that. It’s too early to tell. We have to wait until we clear out all of the rubble and the debris from the church to determine a cause of the fire,” said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Arnold Piedrahita.

Neighbors said the heat was intense.

“I felt the heat all the way over by my crib,” said Kenneth McCollum.

“The flames were pretty bad,” said Jessica Rascon, “The whole building was completely up in smoke.”

The church, which has approximately 150 members, did not have insurance and Pasteurin said they don’t have the money to rebuild.

“We have no idea what we’re going to do. We don’t have the funds available to rebuild,” said Paseurin. “Years of work are going own the drain. That’s why everybody is hurt, everybody is hurt.”

Kendoll Charles, who is a church member and a Youth leader, look at the destruction of his church and told D’Oench, “It’s a very emotional time. It hurts, with the church going down like this.”

The church was planning on celebrating its 19th anniversary this month.

Pasteurin said while the building may be gone, the church will survive.

“There’s nothing we can do. It’s just a building. If God allows this to happen, that means there is a better plan,” said Pasteurin.

Until they can rebuild, Pasteurin said Sunday services will be held in the parking lot. He added they could really use a tent. He also said he hoped he could find another facility for services.

“Regardless of weather, we find a tent or not, we are going to have services in the parking lot,” said Pasteurin.

The building itself was a landmark in North Miami. In the 1950s, it was a bar called the Bottle Cap Inn. Throughout the years it was a number of different businesses including a pizza joint.


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