Man arrested over Chch church fire

Man arrested over Chch church fire

A man in his 30s has just been arrested after a fire ripped through St Margaret's Presbyterian Church in Bishopdale early this morning.

He'll appear in court tomorrow morning, while the parish is left coming to terms with losing its church.

Some Christchurch parishioners were left out in the cold this morning after their church went up in flames overnight.

A suspicious fire ripped through St Margaret's Presbyterian Church in Bishopdale, and the building now needs to be demolished.

Six fire engines were needed to get the particularly dangerous fire under control.

Fireman Brian Lewis says because the building is now unsafe, and it'll need to be demolished.

"Because of the nature of the building being an arch-type construction, it's in danger of collapse. Certainly at the moment and it would have been quite dangerous to firefight in."

The church's Presbyterian minister, Andrew Nichol, turned up today ready to preach.

"I arrived about 6:30am, as is my normal practice, to find multiple fire engines here at the site and the fire underway, so that was quite a shock."

Many parishioners also turned up ready to go to church only to find it completely destroyed by fire.

They offered each other comfort and retreated to the church's community centre next-door.

"It's a bit sad, really. It's more frustrating I think, but the church is only a building. The church is actually the people," says church-goer Alison Bishop.

And it's those people the minister is now trying to support.

"The upsetting nature of this whole thing is something that we're conscious of, and we're contacting people and letting them know that we're still here and things will carry on."

Fire investigators were on-site this morning and say the fire is suspicious and now the subject of a police investigation.

The fire service says the building is a total loss and there were no alarms. It says if there had been, the church may have been saved.