According to multiple media reports, the West Sacramento Fire Department quickly responded to an 8:00 a.m. call alerting them of a fire that engulfed the interior of Holy Myrrhbearing Women Church on Thursday, July 12, 2018.
While the blaze was quickly entinguished, the church suffered significant damage, not only to its interior—the iconostasis and altar area were especially hard hit—but also to its bell tower. No one was in the church at the time, and an investigation to determine the cause of the fire is underway.
According to KCRA-TV 3, an unidentified person called 911 to report flames coming from three church windows. Fire Department representative John Heilman told KCRA reporters that crews arrived to find the church fully engulfed in flames.
“Investigators believe the fire originated somewhere in the altar,” long-time parishioner Constantine Baranoff told reporters. “So that’s where most of the damage appears to be.”
In what Baranoff called “a miracle,” three large icons—the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, Saint Nicholas and Saint John of San Francisco—were barely touched by the fire.
“We’ll start cleaning up and decide how we’re going to rebuild this church,” Baranoff said.
Upon learning of the tragedy, His Eminence, Archbisihop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West contacted Archpriest Matthew Ismailov, Rector, and pledged to visit the parish on Monday, July 16.
Donations for reconstruction efforts may be sent to the Holy Myrrhbearing Women Church, 833 Water Street, West Sacramento, CA 95605. A GoFundMe relief fund also has been set up to help the church.
At the heart of the West Sacramento community for over 100 years, Holy Myrrhbearing Women Church traces its roots to the early 20-th century arrival of Russian and other Slavic immigrants lured to the region by work for the railroad, food processing plants, and agriculture. As major waves of Russian immigrants began to arrive in San Francisco and the Sacramento area in the 1920s, plans to establish a church were initiated in 1925, and funds were collected to buy land on the corner of Hobson Avenue and Water Street.
While the church was being built, services were held in a private home. One of the first resolutions made by the parish was that parishioner labor alone was to be used in building the church. Many parishioners who worked on the railroad, with the permission of their supervisors, began using railroad equipment and materials to build the church. Women played a major role in the effort — they were not only involved with fundraising, but also with the actual construction of the church. These “Lady Builders” inspired Archpriest Vladimir Sakovitch to suggest the name Holy Myrrhbearing Women for the church.
Construction of the church was completed during the pastorate of Archimandrite John [Zlobin], who served the parish from 1927 until 1933. A hall was erected in the late 1940s during the pastorate of Archimandrite Varnava [Karateev].
Shortly after the end of World War II, a new immigration of Russians arrived in the Sacramento area from war ravaged China and Europe, significantly increasing the parish’s membership. A third wave of immigrants from the former Soviet Union followed in the early 1990s. While the majority of these immigrants are zealous Protestants, some are of the Orthodox Christian faith, and many have found a spiritual home at Holy Myrrhbearing Women Church.