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Rep. Barbara Lee asks for community support after Oakland church fire

The Oakland Fire Department said at 11:42 p.m. Feb. 19, 2023, that a three-alarm fire was burning at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. | Oakland Fire Department via Bay City News

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee on Tuesday called on the city of Oakland to “pray and rally support” for the First African Methodist Episcopal Church after a fire severely damaged the church Sunday night.

“This is devastating news,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a statement. “First AME Church of Oakland is a beacon of light in Oakland and has served our community for decades.”

Oakland firefighters were first dispatched to the historic church at 10:45 p.m. Sunday. The blaze was eventually declared a three-alarm fire and required the response of upward of 60 firefighters at its peak.

No civilians or firefighters were injured by the fire, and firefighters prevented it from reaching the preschool and residential building adjacent to the church building, which sits at 3701 Telegraph Ave. 

According to the Rev. Rodney Smith, the church’s pastor who posted a video Sunday night about the fire on First AME Church’s TikTok page, the church’s interior was “completely gutted” by the fire and the outer walls are virtually all that’s left.

The initial cause of the fire has not yet been determined. 

Church officials have launched a GoFundMe fundraising campaign to help with rebuilding the church, which has stood in Oakland since 1954. 

The GoFundMe can be found at As of midday Tuesday, roughly $9,200 had been contributed to the campaign. 

“I’ve known this church, pastors and members of the congregation since my days in college,” Lee said. “We all must pray and rally support for this church family.”

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