STATESVILLE, N.C. (WSIC) – Fire gutted the old Western Avenue Baptist Church in south Statesville early Monday morning.
The Statesville Fire Department received the call shortly before midnight Sunday evening and struck multiple alarms to get enough firefighters to the scene. Chief Spencer Lee describes the building as a total loss.
With assistance from the ATF, the Statesville Fire Marshal’s Office ruled the cause of the fire undetermined due to the extent of damages and the hazard to first responders.
UPDATE: Statesville Fire Marshal’s Office with the assistance of the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearm (ATF) Bureau has ruled the fire as undetermined due to the extent of fire damage and hazard to responders. Crews still remain on scene.
— Statesville Fire (@Statesville_FD) February 11, 2019
“Fire crews responded and found they had fire basically through the roof when they arrived on scene. The building was fully involved,” says Lee.
Crews remained on-scene through Monday night to ensure hot spots did not spread to the adjacent building.
The Western Avenue property is owned by Visions Outreach Ministries which was in the process of renovating the building.
“We really had big plans for this community,” says minister Joseph Rogers. “There’s a lot of poverty and drugs in this community and we really had big plans to help this community in the ways of faith as much as we possibly could.”
Pastor James Hunter says the church previously had a problem with one or more squatters entering the building, but believes that had been addressed. Neither the fire department nor the ministry could say if that played a role in the fire. According to Hunter, he received a call from his alarm company in reference to a door alarm and arrived on-scene about fifteen minutes later.
“It’s a possibility, but as far as I know we had that situation cleared-up,” says Hunter. “We had made the building secured to the degree that people couldn’t just enter it freely.”
It’s unclear if anyone was unlawfully in the building overnight. Despite the loss, Visions Outreach Ministries is confident something positive will come from this situation.
“The scripture says all things work together for the good to them that love the Lord, to those who are called according to His purpose, so it’s some good going to come out of it,” says Hunter.