Billy Morris stood outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southeast Raleigh on Wednesday, gazing at the fire damage and wondering about his church’s future.
Flames tore through the church at 2525 Sanderford Road early Wednesday morning. Investigators said they traced the blaze to soldering work on pipes.
A passing motorist who saw flames coming through the church roof reported the fire shortly before 3 a.m., said Raleigh Fire Capt. W. Preston Gaster.
The fire damaged about 75 percent of the 10,000-square-foot building, said Kendall Hocutt, assistant fire chief in Raleigh.
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A multi-purpose building, including a kitchen area, behind the sanctuary was destroyed, Hocutt said. The sanctuary suffered smoke damage.
The Gethsemane Seventh-day Adventist Church School next door was not damaged. The school serves about 25 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Morris, who has belonged to the church for 36 years, said the church building had been undergoing some repairs, including work to the pipes.
“It’s a tremendous loss,” Morris said.
The Gethsemane church, which has about 350 mostly African-American members, was built in 1981. The church sold its old property on Person Street in downtown Raleigh to build anew at the Sanderford Road site.
Next year, the congregation will celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Morris said church members hope to repair the building. In the meantime, he said, the church might rent a space elsewhere to host worship services.
Two churches have already reached out about offering space, he said.
“It’s nothing like worshiping in your own church,” Morris said.
Two firefighters were hurt during the blaze. One firefighter suffered chest pains while working at the fire scene, and one was hurt in a fall, Gaster said.
Both were treated and released Wednesday, Hocutt said.
For now, Morris said he is optimistic.
“Our church has been resilient over the years,” he said. “We will bounce back from this. God is in control.”
Hendricks: 919-836-5755; Twitter: @ashleytalks_