SANFORD, N.C. — Investigators are looking into the cause of an early morning fire that destroyed a Sanford church.
Fire crews were called out to Baptist Chapel Church on Buckhorn Road at about 4 a.m. Wednesday. More than eight hours later, the building continued to smolder.
The fire was so intense, it took 30 firefighters to battle the blaze. Fire officials said heavy timber and the age of the church made the fire tough to put out.
"The age of the church and different parts of it built at different times -- two different ceiling levels -- it's been really hard to extinguish the fire," said Lt. Todd McNeill of the Cape Fear Fire Department.
Fire crews do not know what caused the fire, but said they believe it started near the middle of the building, between the sanctuary and classrooms.
Clara Howard's in-laws helped build the church. She watched the building burn from a window in her home.
"It's very heartbreaking. My heart was pounding so hard I could hardly think. It's so sad," she said.
The fire hit home for some of the firefighters. They were members of the church. As is customary in church fires, the state Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating.
The church, which was believed to have built around 1913, burned in 1924 and was rebuilt.
Churchgoers said they hope to rebuild again, and have already received offers of help from other churches in the area.