Temple Church Destroyed By Huge Morning Fire


TEMPLE (January 19, 2010)-Firefighters continued late Tuesday morning to check for hot spots following a three-alarm blaze at a Temple-area church.

Firefighters responded early Tuesday morning to a three-alarm fire at the First Baptist Church, located at the intersection of North 1st Street and Barton Avenue in Temple.

Several streets around the church remain closed and power is off to a majority of Downtown Temple.

Temple Fire spokesman Thomas Pechal tells News 10 all available Temple Fire and Rescue firefighters have been called in to help to comb the gutted historic church, looking for hot spots.

Mutual aide on the scene is being provided by Belton Fire Department and area volunteer firefighters from Morgan's Point, Rogers, Troy, Academy and Moffat are manning fire stations in and around the city.

The Temple First Baptist Church day care center remains closed as the church committee meets to see where the children will go during the reconstruction efforts.

Nearby, Christ Church School, formerly known as the McGowen-Stephens School Christ Episcopal Church, remains closed Tuesday, as well.

It is estimated that about half of the entire church was lost during Tuesday morning's blaze, including massive damage to the sanctuary and next-door building.

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

A prayer meeting is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Tuesday at the church teen center, located in Building F at North Main Street and East Barton Avenue; church officials also say the congregation has already been offered various places to meet on Sunday.

Tuesday's Three-Alarm Fire
The initial alarm was paged out just before 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The first crews on the scene reported visible smoke from the center of the roof and requested a second alarm; a third alarm was subsequently sounded at approximately 5:40 a.m.

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

Temple Fire Department began calling in off-duty firefighters around 6:45 a.m. to assist with the massive blaze; Belton Fire Department was called for backup, as well.

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, the church, which was at the time located at the intersection of North Main Street and Barton Avenue, was destroyed by a fire late that night after the evening service, the Web site says.

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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