Whittier church destroyed in predawn blaze

Los Angeles County firefighters hose down the still-smoldering Good Shepherd Bible Church in Whittier.
(Raul Roa / Times Community News)

As wildfires ravaged the Southland on Thursday, an unrelated blaze erupted before dawn at a church in Whittier, destroying the large two-story structure.

The fire at Good Shepherd Bible Church at 6712 Washington Ave. started about 5:05 a.m. and quickly spread throughout the building, sending flames shooting through the rooftop.

One person was transported to the hospital as firefighters used ladder trucks and hoses to battle the fire, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said.


The blaze, which is under investigation but did not appear to be related to any of the numerous brush fires burning across Southern California, tore through the backside of the church, leaving a burned outline behind. Inside, a collapsed pile of charred wood was seen blocking the main entrance.

The church, which sits across the street from a city park, has been in the Gamboa family for 30 years. According to its website, Pastor Sam Gamboa Jr. and his wife, Sharon, took over from Gamboa’s father and mother. KTLA-TV Channel 5 reported that the campus houses two churches, one that has been in the community for nearly a decade.

People wait across the street Thursday as firefighters pour water on the church in Whittier about four hours after the fire was first reported.
(Raul Roa / Times Community News)

Gamboa grew up in the church, flexing musical talent at a young age as a singer.

“Pastor Sam recalls, ‘They would put a chair behind the pulpit so that I could stand on it to be seen,’” the website says. Over time, he took on the tambourine, drums and piano for the choir. His interest in teaching ministry started at age 16. In 2002, he became a pastor for Good Shepherd.

A representative of the church was not immediately available for comment Thursday. An adult Bible study class had been scheduled to meet on the evening of the fire.

One church member told KTLA she had been in the building Wednesday night and rushed to the site Thursday morning after learning of the fire.


“I needed to see the building,” she said. “It’s been home to us for so long and for so many people. It just hurts.”

Fire officials said a cause for the blaze has not yet been determined.