Local News

Fire hits historic Selma church

Posted May 16, 2010 12:29 p.m. EDT
Updated May 16, 2010 11:27 p.m. EDT

— 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.