ATF Asked To Investigate Fire That Gutted Temple’s First Baptist Church

| January 21, 2010

TEMPLE (January 20, 2010)—Temple’s Fire Marshal asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Wednesday to join the investigation of the fire that gutted the sanctuary of Temple’s First Baptist Church and an adjoining building that housed offices, music rooms and classrooms.

Both buildings were destroyed and the church’s Child Development Center suffered heavy smoke damage, but a total damage estimate isn’t yet available.

The Child Development Center will remain closed for at least the rest of the week, according to the church’s Web site.

Meanwhile, Temple Fire & Rescue spokesman Thomas Pechal said construction equipment was being assembled for the removal of debris from the gutted buildings, whose exterior walls will be left intact.

An engineer will assess the integrity of what remains of the structure before investigators begin their work, Pechal said Wednesday.

The fire was declared under control just before 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, but firefighters remained at the scene overnight to monitor hot spots deep beneath the debris.

Church members held a prayer vigil Tuesday night at the church’s youth center during which an “overflowing crowd celebrated God's blessings and grace during these challenging days. Members expressed their gratefulness for everyone's love and prayers,” according to the church’s Web site.

Officials said services will be held this Sunday only at 11 p.m. at the Mayborn Convention Center.

There will be only a single service Sunday, official said.

A fund has been established under the name of First Baptist Fire Relief Fund and donations may be made at any Extraco Bank.

A Temple police officer spotted the flames and reported the fire at 5:24 a.m. Tuesday and a second alarm was requested within a few minutes of the arrival of the first Temple Fire and Rescue crews.

A third alarm was requested at 5:40 a.m., calling in all off-duty firefighters.

The roof of the church collapsed around 6:30 a.m. as crews battled the flames from all four sides.

Firewalls, which were installed in 2003, are believed to have helped protect the remainder of the building.

Destroyed For A Second Time

According the Temple First Baptist Church Web site, this is the second time the church has suffered a destructive fire.

On March 6, 1938, a fire that broke out late at night after an evening service destroyed the church, which was at the time at the intersection of North Main Street and Barton Avenue.

Earlier that day, at the close of the morning service, the pastor, Dr. C.R. Shirar, had just announced his resignation to take a position in a Louisiana-based church.

Three months later, the church broke ground on a new sanctuary at its current location at North First Street and Barton Avenue.

Prior to Tuesday morning's fire, the church had been planning to open a second campus on 138 acres of land purchased last year near Pea Ridge Road and Farm-to-Market 2305 in west Temple.

 

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