Thursday, March 24, 2022

Fire investigation ongoing and official fire investigation reports pending

 ABOVE: The scene at Historic Wintersburg after firefighters put out the fire. The 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Mission is standing at right, the south end charred, and the 1910 Manse is at left in front of the firefighters. (Photo courtesy of Patricia Singer, February 25, 2022) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   [Huntington Beach, California]  As an update today, the Huntington Beach Police Department informed preservationists that the fire investigation is ongoing and that the official investigation reports are not yet complete. The official investigation reports from the police department and Huntington Beach Fire Department are expected to be completed and released within the next two weeks, per a police investigator.

LEFT: News release issued by the City of Huntington Beach on March 18. (Source: City of Huntington Beach)

   On Friday, March 19, the City of Huntington Beach issued a press release stating "the Huntington Beach Fire Department, in collaboration with the Huntington Beach Police Department, has completed a rigorous investigation into the cause of the fire that took place at the Wintersburg property." However the information received today indicate the investigation is ongoing and the official investigation reports are still pending.

      The fire resulted in the loss of two historic structures, the 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Mission and the 1910 Manse (parsonage).  The sole remaining structure of the three buildings representing the Wintersburg Japanese Mission Project, founded in 1904 by both Christians and Buddhists, is the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church. The 1934 Church structure was funded and constructed during the Great Depression through individual small donations from around Orange County.

ABOVE: The 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church at the intersection of Nichols Lane and Warner Avenue is in the Spanish Revival style with an engineered interior structure old-growth redwood. The Historic Wintersburg property was under the ownership and stewardship of Republic Services at the time of this photograph in 2018 and currently remains under their ownership. (Photo, M. Urashima, September 11, 2018) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   In the above image, the front door to the 1934 Church has been vandalized. The building shows patchy and mismatched painting over tagging. Volunteers offered numerous times to Republic Services to help repaint the building and remove trash around the exterior of the property. 

RIGHT: The vandalized front door of the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church building. (February 10, 2022) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   The front door to the 1934 Church building was vandalized again more severely in early February and notification was sent to Republic Services and the City of Huntington Beach on February 10, 2022, requesting the front door be boarded over to prevent further damage. This notification two weeks before the February 25 fire included ongoing and reported concerns about vandalism, trespass, lack of security, and lack of maintenance being a fire risk at the property. 

  An update will be provided when the official fire investigation reports from the Huntington Beach Fire Department and Huntington Beach Police Department are released.

ABOVE: The 1934 Wintersburg Japanese church upon its dedication in Wintersburg Village, following four years of fundraising and construction during the Great Depression. (Santa Ana Register, December 10, 1934)

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The Historic Wintersburg blog focuses on an overlooked history in Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, in the interest of saving a historic property from demolition. The author and publisher reserves the right not to publish comments. Please no promotional or political commentary. Zero tolerance for hate rhetoric. Comments with embedded commercial / advertising links or promoting other projects, books, or publications may not be published. If you have an interesting anecdote, question or comment about one of our features, it will be published.