Zion's First Church of God in Christ, which has stood on the same West Oakland corner in different forms for almost 100 years, was largely destroyed in a three-alarm fire Monday afternoon. The Baptist church at the corner of Center and Eighth Streets is known for giving food to the hungry, and for being a social and charitable center of the community.
Fire broke out around 2:30 yesterday, and had engulfed the building by 3 p.m. It was ultimately put out by around 3:45. The cause of the fire is not known, and is believed to have started near the front of the church, but arson is not suspected. The fire also traveled up a power line and caused a transformer to explode, disrupting power to the neighborhood.
Damage is estimated at $900,000 and it's still unclear how much of the church's musical equipment, and records dating back almost a century, were burned.
Though the current building only dates to the 1970s, Pauline Williams, wife of Pastor Rickie Williams, told NBC Bay Area that the same congregation had made a home at this corner for the last 97 years. "The community has always known this church as a sanctuary for them," she said to the Mercury-News. "Our member here were the carpenters, the plumbers; they built this church."
The church is known for its semi-monthly food distribution program to the needy, which itself dates back 90 years.