Richmond church burns in predawn fire

Firefighters on Tuesday morning raced to put out a raging three-alarm fire at the Bethel Church in Richmond, but despite the destruction, the pastor is thankful it wasn't worse. 

KTVU cameras spotted large, orange flames billowing from the church on Cutting Boulevard at 5:30 a.m. and crews trying to quell them. Firefighters from Contra Costa County, Pinole and El Cerrito came to help. In all, more than 30 firefighters helped out, according to a battalion chief. 

The chief said it took a while to put it out, calling it very "stubborn." There was another fire at the church, he said, about 12 or 15 years ago. 

Bishop Billy Wydermyer woke up to a phone call alerting him that the alarm system had gone off at the church, which has been standing since the 1930s and used to be an old movie theater.

Surveying the charred scene afterward, Wydermyer said it looks like the back of the church has a lot of damage and another, smaller church building appears as though it has burned down. 

It's unclear who might have been in the church at the time or how it started.

Wydermyer said there have been no services since the shelter-in-place order was issued in mid-March. He holds church and Sunday school online, from his home studio. He comes to the church only from time to time.

Even though the church looks pretty bad, Wydermyer said he's thankful no one was hurt. 

"It's amazing how God will work in mysterious ways," he said.

Fire at Bethel Church in Richmond. April 21, 2020