The community of Morinville is reeling after losing a staple in the community.
A fire was reported at St. Jean Baptiste Church in Morinville early Wednesday morning (June 30), just after 3 a.m.
Onlookers wept and took photos as the centrepiece of the small town since 1907 burned to the ground.
"It turns your stomach," said deputy mayor in Morinville, Nicole Boutestein. "A piece of our history, our culture, heritage and our community is gone."
Upon arrival, fire crews determined the blaze was already well involved in the basement of the structure. Crews tried to make entry, but the building was charged with smoke and starting to collapse.
As of 6:58 a.m., the fire was under control.
The church was completely destroyed due to the fire; however, nearby buildings were saved, including the former convent building, which sustained water and smoke damage. Around 50 residents were evacuated.
The church and area were the hosts of many events in the small town.
"It's a very sad day for us. Whether you were Catholic or not, that church had a memory for absolutely everyone in the town," added Boutestein.
Long-time Morinville resident, Nicole Boulanger, told MIX 107 she's heartbroken.
"Every time the fire department knocks down a little more, your heart breaks a little more."
Equipment and personnel were on scene from Gibbons, Bon Accord, Legal, Sturgeon County, St. Albert and Edmonton. The Town of Morinville said in a release, about 50 firefighters responded to the incident.
The Morinville RCMP is calling the fire suspicious and asking for any video footage from the area.