West Oakland COGIC Church Attacked by Three Alarm Fire
UPDATE on Dec. 13, 2013:
After a fire ravaged the Zion First Church of God in Christ in September, members recently began rebuilding the church that’s been a neighborhood fixture for 97 years.
“If God allowed this fire to happen, it means he’s taking us into the future,” said Pauline Williams, wife of pastor Rickie Williams. “We told our members, ‘You see a fire, but you also see a future.’ We’re not going away. We’re going to rebuild.”
Not only is the congregation rebuilding, they’re expanding – keeping in step with the renaissance of West Oakland generally, they said.
As home values skyrocket and the once predominantly African American neighborhood diversifies, the church wants to diversify, as well. It’s creating partnerships with Asian and Latino churches, welcoming members of all ethnicities and plans to add a charter school, drug counseling and senior programs to its offerings.
“Our new facility will be state-of-the-art, and we want to share it,” said Calvin Dobbins, 50, a longshoreman whose family has belonged to Zion for three generations. “This church has served our family spiritually and naturally. We hope it can offer that same thing to the community.”
Original story from Sept. 26, 2013 below:
A three-alarm blaze that could be seen for miles destroyed a well-known church near the West Oakland BART station Monday afternoon.
According to the 911 dispatcher, it was around 2:48 p.m. when the Oakland Fire Department first received reports of a fire at the location of Zion First Church of God in Christ.
The Nimitz Freeway and West Oakland BART station had a huge cloud of black smoke hovering over it.
Fireman arrived on scene to see flames bursting through the church walls which led to three alarms being called.
“We had a high voltage wire that was burned initially, so we had to be very careful while that wire was dangling down,” said Batt. Chief Lisa Baker of Oakland Fire Dept. “We had to stop until we could get PG&E to respond.”
Crews reported that the fire was under control at 3:35 p.m., a dispatcher said, but the blaze flared up again about a half-hour later, its flames seen bursting out the top of the church.
The damage is estimated to be over $900,000. The church is considered a historical one which was the first in its denomination in the Bay Area and has been there for over 100 years.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.