Volunteers flee church inferno

| October 10, 2010

FIRE engulfed a central coast church as parishioners prepared equipment for a children's service.

A team of 12 volunteers was setting up audio-visual equipment for the service at Coastlife Church when they noticed smoke about 4.30pm on Saturday.

Within minutes of them evacuating, tje fire had spread throughout the two-level Pentecostal church at Erina.

Dozens of firefighters and 10 fire trucks battled to contain the blaze but it quickly destroyed the building, worth an estimated $5 million.

A nearby nursing home was evacuated, neighbours described a "deafening roar'' as flames leapt 20m above the roof.

Firefighters continued to put out spot fires in the 60sq/m building yesterday, while an investigation by forensic police was hampered when further parts of the metal ceiling collapsed.

"It's been classified as unsafe,'' a police spokesman said.

"They have not been able to return to conduct further inquiries into the cause of the fire and there is a fair bit of excavation work to be done before that happens.''

The church was founded by Hillsong pastor Brian Houston in 1980 before pastors Ian and Yvonne Zerna took over in 1997.

Mr Zerna said they planned to rebuild "stronger, better and with greater significance''.

"We will seek to demolish the devastated building and rebuild as soon as possible,'' he said.

"The building's original architect has been informed of the disaster and will begin planning for our future.''



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