Children and their parents have been without a preschool since April 11 when a small fire damaged two classrooms at Christ Lutheran  Church Preschool on Francis Avenue in Chino. 

A “restricted use” yellow tag placed in the preschool office window by the City of Chino prohibits all visitors until the wiring to the fire alarm system is repaired or replaced.  

Chino spokesperson Vivian Castro said the wiring caught on fire, causing the alarm system to be inoperable.

Pastor Roy Robbins said the fire occurred at approximately 8 p.m., shortly after a power outage in the neighborhood.

The Chino Valley Fire District responded to a call that equipment on a power pole on Vernon Avenue melted and dropped onto a lawn, said fire district spokeswoman Massiel Ladron De Guevara. 

She said firefighters responded to the call before being redirected to the church. 

Pastor Robbins said after the firefighters responded to a small fire on the lawn at Vernon, a church member saw sparks coming from the preschool. 

“If those sparks were not seen by Erika, the preschool would have probably burned to the ground,” he said. 

Ms. Ladron De Guevara said the power outage and fire occurred simultaneously, but it is undetermined if they were related. 

24-hour vigil

The pastor said the fire was one incident in a series of back-to-back unfortunate events, including a trespasser who charged at him  on the church grounds and anti-Christian graffiti on the church sign and campus.

He said the church held a 24-hour prayer vigil to get rid of the negativity. 

Pastor Robbins said although damage to the church was minor, remediation has been underway since April 11 because of smoke and water damage. 

Air scrubbers have been brought in by the remediation contractor to remove contaminants and particulates. 

Portions of the roof that were cut by firefighters for ventilation must be replaced and duct work may be needed, he said.

Preschool director Stacey Strasser said, “I believe God must have a plan for all of this. While the preschool is closed, we will be able to update our playground.”

Ms. Strasser said the makeover will provide the church with a better curb appeal. 

She said preschool had just begun to increase its attendance numbers after COVID, when the fire occurred.

Teacher Anelle Veiga of Chino said she will wait until the preschool reopens to resume her job, and in the meantime, spend time at home with her son. 

Church council president Linnea Pierson said the preschool opened in 1988.

“The playground has been looking dilapidated for awhile but it hasn’t been on our list to upgrade because the children were here,” she said. 

The church’s insurance company will take care of the fire damage and the church will raise money for the playground, she said.

Ms. Pierson said playground equipment is very expensive but the church will do the best it can. 

“The insurance contractors are telling us the recovery work will be done in four months, but I’m going to hold onto six weeks,” she said.

Southern California Edison spokeswoman Jennifer Shaw confirmed that equipment failed just north of the corner of Francis Street and Vernon Avenue at 7:48 p.m., causing a power outage for 1,400 customers. 

Most customers were restored by approximately 9:57 p.m. with the last remaining customer restored at 4:45 a.m. April 12, she said. 

Church built in 1966

Christ Lutheran was built on Francis Avenue in 1966.

The church was then known as St. Stephen Lutheran Church until the name was changed to Christ Lutheran in 1974. 

It was established by the American Lutheran Church. 

While the building was  under construction, the congregation met at E.J. Marshall Elementary School from October 1965 until the first phase of the church was completed in 1966, according to Champion archives. 

Rev. Gary Berkland was the first pastor.

The church has started a Go Fund Me account for preschool donations. Visit gofundme.com and search Christ Lutheran Church and Preschool.

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