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Fire burns two historic churches in Douglas

Overnight activity resulted in additional damage
Two historic churches destroyed in Douglas on Monday
Posted at 8:08 PM, May 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-22 23:16:51-04

DOUGLAS, Ariz. (KGUN) — UPDATE 05/23:

A change in fire conditions overnight resulted in additional damage at the First Presbyterian Church.

KGUN 9 obtained the following statement from the Douglas Fire Department as the investigation into the cause of the fire continues:

There was significant fire activity at the Presbyterian Church overnight and, unfortunately, it resulted in additional damage.

The chance of fire activity changing (reigniting is a misnomer) is one of the main reasons we keep crews on scene even after the fire appears to be out. There are a few possible reasons this could happen including building construction, smoldering fire which reaches faster burning materials, and even weather.

The cause of the increase in fire activity will be part of the investigation.

Alexis Ramanjulu will be live Tuesday with a new report from Douglas, Ariz.


Two historic churches caught fire Monday on D Avenue in Douglas. No one was in the churches at the time of the fire.

The Douglas Fire Department's public information officer, Matt King, said they received the call at 10:51 a.m. after someone reported seeing smoke in St. Stephen's Church. The fire jumped three buildings before flames started at the neighboring First Presbyterian Church. King said the first church has significant structure damage, while First Presbyterian suffered from smoke damage.

Pastor Peggy Christiansen said she saw the firefighters breaking the stained glass windows of the church as she approached the scene at noon.

“When I first got here it was a complete punch in the gut," she said. "I walked from that way and I saw them breaking into the glass windows. And those stained glass windows are historic and they’re kinda part of the identity of the church.”

Members of the First Presbyterian congregation, Sylvia and Manuel Valenzuela, said it was heartbreaking to see the damage and the destruction of the historic building.

“It’s just sad that the originality of the church and the historical significance of the church has to be rebuilt,” Manuel Valenzuela said.

Crews were packing up and leaving the scene at 6 p.m. The start of the fire is under investigation. King said the investigation can take a couple days.

Alexis Ramanjulu is a reporter in Cochise County for KGUN 9. She began her journalism career reporting for the Herald/Review in Sierra Vista, which she also calls home. Share your story ideas with Alexis by emailing or by connecting on Facebook.