Fire destroys Pomona church hours before toy giveaway, Christmas celebrations

ByElena Gomez KABC logo
Monday, December 18, 2023
Pomona church destroyed by fire hours before toy giveaway
Hundreds of toys that were set to be given away to local children were destroyed in the Pomona church fire.

POMONA, Calif. (KABC) -- Fire destroyed a popular community church in Pomona overnight, just hours before a planned toy giveaway and Christmas celebration.

The Victory Outreach church erupted in flames around 2:45 a.m. Sunday. When firefighters arrived, the 12,000 square-foot building was already engulfed in flames, with heavy smoke shooting into the air.

The fire was so strong that firefighters had to pull back because of the risk of building collapse.

"When they arrived on scene they had heavy smoke and fire showing through this old church," said Capt. Sheila Kelliher Berkoh with Los Angeles County fire.

"Immediately they went into an aggressive interior attack. They were in there about 20 minutes when the roof started to collapse and the fire really expanded. So they had to go into defensive mode and defensive operation."

A GoFundMe has been established to help the church rebuild.

"It's a tough day," said Victory Outreach Senior Pastor Robert Garcia. "One of the congregants said, 'At the end of the day, pastor, the building is going to be burned down, but the church is still going to be standing because we're the church.'"

More than 100 firefighters were involved in containing the flames and by 7 a.m. they were still active on scene spraying water onto the smoldering ruins.

Cleanup continues at the scene after a fire destroyed the Victory Outreach Pomona church.

The church had planned to give away about 500 toys to local needy children on Sunday, along with holding a Christmas play with kids activities, including games and train rides. Local church members were gathering at the scene Sunday morning to console each other and pray.

Upon hearing the news, ABC7's Spark of Love campaign and local firefighters planned to show up across the street Sunday afternoon with toys so that the kids could still have a merry Christmas.

"I'm thinking of all the beautiful moments that happened in there then I'm thinking question marks," said Garcia as he held back tears. 'What am I going to do? Where am I going to have church? So really, we just need everyone to pray for us."

No injuries were reported.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.