Fireworks from intruders may have been the cause of church fire – American Press

A fire that destroyed much of a Leesville church on New Year’s Eve may have been started by intruders firing fireworks at the property, investigators from the Fire Marshal’s Office said. ‘State.

Pastor Bobby Ganaway said he received an alert just after 1 a.m. indicating that there appeared to be intruders behind the Christian Living Fellowship Church, located on US 171 near Entrance Road.

“Our team of security volunteers got the news and went to patrol the property, but it looked like whoever it was had already left by the time they arrived,” Ganaway said.

While the intruders may have left the area, they failed to properly clear and extinguish the fireworks they had set off.

According to Ashley Rodrigue, spokesperson for the Office of the Fire Marshal, investigators believe the blaze started near trash cans near a shed behind the church.

Rodrigue said just before 2:30 a.m. on New Years Day, the New Llano and Sandy Hill Fire Departments responded to reports of a fire in the church and firefighters arrived to find a shed. storage on burning property. When the firefighters arrived, the fire was spreading from the storage shed to the church building.

“Although the exact cause of the fire remains undetermined at this time, after gathering information on activity on the property in the hours leading up to the fire call and locating the remains of fireworks in the area Originally, MPs cannot rule out the possibility of casually throwing out the fireworks as a potential contributing factor, ”Rodrigue said.

Ganaway said he arrived as firefighters were fighting the blaze and believes their hard work may have saved the building’s sanctuary from being completely destroyed by the blaze.

“They fought the blaze for three long hours trying to save the shrine. I watched as they went out for some oxygen and just rested a moment and went back in there; they were so determined to save the sanctuary. I have the utmost respect for each of them and I thank them for everything they did that night, ”said Ganaway.

Although the sanctuary may have been spared from the fires, Ganaway said the building suffered extensive water damage and that claims adjusters were assessing the future of the building.

“They said it might be necessary to eliminate it altogether. We’re just waiting to see what the final decision will be, ”he said.

Still, Ganaway said the church congregation refused to let the devastation keep them from praying. Sunday morning, just hours after the fire was extinguished, the church community gathered to worship the church emblem, a large cross still standing on the property since the church was built in 2018.

“The cross means a lot to the people here, it is a symbol and it is also something that the building itself is known for because the cross is so large and visible in the area. It just seemed like the right thing to do, so I appealed on social media for us to come together at the cross since we couldn’t have service in a building. We couldn’t let the devil win, ”said Ganaway.

The call was answered, and not just by the church congregation. Several hundred people gathered on this cold New Years morning to worship and comfort the members of the church. Ganaway said they were joined by congregations from around Leesville, and since that day they have received incredible support from these churches and the churches in DeRidder.

“We have been incredibly blessed by the influx of support from these churches, and they have also offered us the use of their buildings for our worship services. It was just amazing, ”he said.

As of this week, the Christian Living Fellowship has secured the use of the Vernon Parish Fairgrounds for services for the foreseeable future until a new church building is long-term secured for their services. of worship.

“We had to reduce our services from three services to one on Sunday, but we will do what is necessary. We just want to make sure that we continue to worship God and not let satan win. I think this is the most important thing on all of our hearts; we want to make it a positive moment and not let it get us down. We’re just sticking our tongues out and saying “you can’t stop us,” Ganaway said.

As the blaze started on the first day of a new year, Ganaway said the irony had not been lost on himself or the church, but that they believed it could be the start. of something exciting.

“It’s scary, the unknown of it all, but it’s also exciting and we embrace it. We believe that God is going to use it for something greater, and we’re ready for it. And we can never thank this community enough for supporting us in our difficult times, ”he said.

Jerry B. Hatch