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Fire damages local church

WOODLAND – Firefighters were on the scene of a Sunday morning fire near here at Menola First Baptist Church.

No parishioners were at the church, however, when the blaze started, according to Woodland Fire Department Chief Chris Collier.

“A passerby had seen smoke coming out of the eaves of the roof of the sanctuary. He contacted 9-1-1,” Collier explained. “We were dispatched at 11:01 a.m. and we were in route with three engines in less than two minutes. We responded with 15 firefighters.”

The church, which is located on Benthall Bridge Road in Hertford County, is a part of Woodland Fire Department’s district. Collier said the fire departments from St. John, Rich Square, and Lasker were all also paged out to the scene of the church fire, and he thanked them for their assistance.

“When our first engine arrived on scene, we saw heavy smoke showing from the front of the sanctuary, coming out of the eaves of the roof,” Collier continued.

He reported that all the entrances to the church were locked and they had to force their way through the front door. Inside, the firefighters discovered the flames were contained to two small rooms.

“It was burning up the side of the wall and had gotten into the roof,” he added. “We started extinguishing the fire and within 15 minutes we had it under control.”

Collier noted they only used 700 gallons of water to put out the flames, an amount much lower than they usually need. Members of the fire department remained on the scene for another two and a half hours to make sure the fire was completely out and they hadn’t missed any spots.

According to Hertford County Emergency Management Director Chris Smith, who also responded to the scene, the fire was contained to the front portion of the church where there was moderate damage to a sound room and a restroom, as well as a portion of the attic.

“Luckily, there was a fire wall separating that area from the rest of the church,” he explained.

The church also sustained some smoke and water damage. Smith estimated the overall damage totaled $30,000.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by Smith and his team.

“We’re still looking at some things, but it appears the fire was accidental. There was no foul play involved,” he reported.