Huntington Beach

Wintersburg fire still a mystery

WINTERSBURG JAPANESE Presbyterian Mission and congregation, around 1910 (Public domain).

Some of the historic buildings that played a big role in the lives of Japanese immigrants to Orange County survived racism, two world wars and the encroachment of suburbia but were nevertheless damaged by a fire that erupted on Feb. 25, and the cause of the fire remains a mystery.

The blaze hit the Wintersburg property near Warner Avenue west of Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach, destroying a parsonage dating back to 1910 and damaged the Wintersburg Japanese Mission building. The remains of both structures were bulldozed, but firefighters were able to save what was the Japanese Presbyterian Church.

In a report issued Friday jointly by the Huntington Beach police and fire departments, the cause of the damage to the historic buildings is unknown despite “rigorous investigation,” according to Jennifer Carey, public information officer for the city.

While there is no evidence of arson or a hate crime, two theories are advanced as to the cause of the fire. One is that a homeless person living near one of the wooden structures may have accidentally set the blaze. The other theory is that electricity may have been “illegally and dangerously acquired by tapping into a nearby power source, bypassing the electric meter.”

The owner of the property, Republic Services (which operates a nearby waste disposal and recycling center) has promised to “enhance” security of the site.

1 reply »

  1. The detailed response from Historic Wintersburg can be found here:

    The response clarifies misstatements by the City and the hate incidents reported to HBPD since 2016. It also includes images of the types of incidents of fire risk, vandalism, trespass reported to Republic Services and the City since 2011 to present day. Vandalism at the property and concern about fire risk was reported to both Republic Services and the City two weeks before the fire.

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