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Sunday fire damages sanctuary, other areas at Texas church

TEXARKANA, Texas (BP) — A fire hours after Sunday (March 8) services damaged the sanctuary at First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas, and destroyed the television control room and several offices.

Pastor Jeff Schreve praised God that no lives were lost, and expressed trust in Him after the tragedy.

“This is a difficult time for us,” he told Baptist Press Monday, “but we are trusting the Lord. We’re looking to Him. We know that He’s the God Who takes bad things and turns them to good.”

Around 3 p.m. Sunday a custodial employee and two others were in the church when they heard noises as if a door were slammed. The three smelled smoke and safely exited the church, Schreve told BP. The Texarkana Fire Department and several volunteer units extinguished the fire in about 90 minutes, Schreve said, and firefighters believe the fire started in the TV control room.

The TV control room and three offices were destroyed, and a portion of the 2,350-seat worship center was damaged.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get things going here to where we can be in our gym and do some things like that — multiple services …,” Schreve told BP. “But it’s still kind of early yet, so we’re just going to have to rebuild.”

Firefighters cut through an exterior wall to fight the blaze, Schreve said, and three firefighters were treated at an area hospital for smoke inhalation and released.

The church just remodeled its sanctuary and TV control room a couple of years ago, the pastor said.

The church will require “extensive cleanup,” and the worship center may not be usable for months, Schreve said. “The smoke was really, really thick and heavy and dangerous. So we’re still trying to clean up the air now (Monday midday), but it’s been tough in different spots.”

Many people have come to his aid.

“I just appreciate people’s care and concern. The community has just been tremendous, really coming together and wanting to help,” he said. Schools and hotels have offered free space.