Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Salem, Oregon
CV NEWS FEED // A fire at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the oldest parish in Salem, Oregon, struck in the early hours of Thursday, causing severe damage after what began as a dumpster fire spread to the roof of the church.
The local fire department was first dispatched at 2:30 a.m. According to Salem’s Deputy Fire Chief, Brian Carrara, 20 vehicles and about 70 firefighters were called in. They began by fighting the fire from inside, but after a half hour, they exited to fight it from the roof, said Carrara.
“The cause is still under investigation,” Carrara told CatholicVote. “The main chapel was significantly damaged.”
Though no injuries have been reported, the parish, which serves about 3,500 people, was badly damaged by the fire. While the outer brick remains, the roof sustained heavy damage, and photos show the debris and water covering the floor.
The Salem Police Department called the scene an “active” investigation in a post on X.
Deacon Leo Rasca, who has attended the church for over 30 years, said that the archway over the altar appeared to have collapsed.
The church was built in 1953, but the parish goes back over 100 years. The parish first rented a local building until 1864, when it moved into a new building that seated 300. In 1889, the church moved again until the present church was built in the 1950s.
“St. Joseph’s is not just a building, it’s the people,” Rasca said.
St. Joseph’s offers masses in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Latin.
Archbishop Alexander Sample led the parish in daily mass in the parking lot at noon following the fire.
“I am in Salem this morning to be with the people of St. Joseph Parish / Iglesia de San Jose. Together, we will recover from last night’s destructive fire. Praise God no one was hurt. Thank you to all the first responders for their tireless efforts. God Bless!” Sample said in a tweet.
St. Joseph’s has not yet responded for a request to comment at the time of publication.