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Fire hits historic Selma church

Posted May 16, 2010

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— Churchgoers escaped a fire at a nearly century-old Selma church Sunday morning when a woman noticed smoke coming out of a vent.

About a half-dozen people were having a Bible study before the 11 a.m. worship service in Free Spirit Church, at Pollock and Waddell streets, Pastor George Walston said.

One of them looked up and saw the smoke, he said. They escaped safely.

“We got the kids out of the Sunday School, and we gathered everybody together, and we headed out the front door,” Sunday School teacher Michael Jeffries said.

“I was hoping and praying that it (church) didn't burn down,” Deacon Roy Alford said.

Firefighters from Selma, Smithfield, Pine Level and Micro put out the fire. No one was injured.

Selma Fire Chief Phillip McDaniel said the fire started on the third floor, which Walston said is used to store furniture. The cause is under investigation, but a church member said the radiator likely overheated and caught fire.

Most of the damage was contained to the second and third floors, Walston said. The first-floor sanctuary sustained mostly smoke damage.

An antique piano was destroyed, but most of the furniture stored in the attic can be replaced, he said.

Firefighters worked to vent smoke from the church after the fire was put out. Officials said the biggest challenge was the height of the church, since the departments had access to only one ladder truck. Firefighters considered punching out windows but did not have to do that.

The church was built in 1911 and has between 60 and 70 members, the pastor said.

“I love it because it's an antique. You won't find another church in Selma like this,” Alford said.

9 Comments

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  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 18, 2010

    wildcat, what is more selfish?

    1- Pay taxes and expect public services?

    2- Don't pay any taxes and expect public services?

    Don't get me wrong, I think society should help save these fellow humans and help this church put out its fire.

    I'm just suggesting that the church should "express its gratitude" in a monetary, not supernatural way...or even be forced to do so...so these same police & firepeople can continue to save OTHER people.

    And, thank Mithra, there's no "christianty in [me]". ;-)

  • wildcat May 17, 2010

    The members of this church do appreciate all that was done in for them and in saving their church.

  • wildcat May 17, 2010

    I am glad no one was hurt.

    and not rely on the rest of us for a handout.

    I don't believe they asked you for anything. You are so selfish and I really don't see the christianty in you.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 17, 2010

    Yes, Mike H. Thanks.

    If the church wants to "show their gratitude" to the police & firefolks, they could drop the rosary and pickup their checkbook and actually DO something...like pay the cost of this fiasco and not rely on the rest of us for a handout.

    And, I surely hope that at least some of the members pay property taxes. When the property that they actually pay taxes on catches fire, they're not relying on you and me again.

  • jkrmeme May 17, 2010

    hereandnow99: your comments do not even deserve a reply...evidently you do not belong to any christian church.....I am sure that many of those church members were tax paying citizens..I know that many of those who responded to this fire were volunteers - giving of their own time to train and respond to emergencies...I am very thankful for these volunteers and also thankful for those who do get paid for putting their life on the line for others....and yes they can use my tax money for such emergencies...

    trytoberational: I totally agree with your comments

  • Bill of Rights May 17, 2010

    hereandnow99's point was that we (private land owners) already DO pay for those services through out property taxes. I have no problem with a firefighter putting out a fire at a church, but it only seems fair that the church should have to pay property taxes to cover that service as well.

  • trytoberational May 17, 2010

    I'm assuming that the people of this church are very gratful to the firemen and police for saving the church and how someone could even suggest that we start paying for emergency services on top of what we already pay them in tax money is just absolutly ridculous what planet are you on heaven forbid you home or business catches fire but if it does can you pay for it? How much does it cost to have all the people who risk life and limb to do such a job in my mind it's priceless you can't put a price tag on everything. Many thanks to those who do this thankless job some of us appreciate you.

  • tulips4445 May 17, 2010

    you want to start billing people when their property catches on fire?

  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 17, 2010

    A big church like that is worth at least $1 million...which is at least $12,000 per year in avoided property taxes alone.

    I wonder if this church is going to thank us taxpayers for supplying their tax-free behinds with the ability to call 911?...which immediately elicits an entire team of professionally trained firefighters, driving a quarter million dollar, specially-equipped fire truck, to come to their rescue 24/7...remove all the people and extinguish the fire.

    On top of that, the police & another team of professionally trained fire investigators will spend much time and resources invetigating the cause of the fire. And, if any foul-play is discovered, our police force will....yadda yadda....and on and on.

    How 'bout we bill these folks? ;-)