Historic Methodist Church Lost During Night of Cotton Plant Fires | KLRT
COTTON PLANT, Ark. – The town of Cotton Plant mourns the loss of a historic Methodist church after three fires broke out in one night.
According to the Cotton Plant Volunteer Fire Department, a call came in just after 11:00 p.m. Sunday night for an abandoned building on fire near Vine Street. When crews arrived at the scene, they also found smoke billowing from the 112-year-old United Methodist Church that stood a few yards away. A passerby said it looked like the smoke and flames were coming from inside a room, but a second plume soon erupted from the roof and the building was engulfed.
As firefighters responded to both fires, a third fire broke out around the corner from Main, another abandoned building less than a quarter mile from the first two scenes.
Cotton Plant Fire was assisted by other fire departments including McCrory, Brinkley and Hunter Fire. The investigation is being led by the Arkansas State Police, the Woodruff County Sheriff’s Office, and the ATF along with state firefighters as they seek to find a cause. No further information was given, although a first responder at the scene said it seemed suspicious. He also added that no one was injured.
Two days after the fires, worshipers and supporters of The United Methodist Church gathered at the ruins to hold a prayer service. Pastor Melanie Tubbs spoke, along with the Methodist District Superintendent and the Bishop of Arkansas.
Tubbs recalled arriving Sunday evening to find the church on fire.
“My first reaction was overwhelming grief,” she said. “We had no idea Sunday morning that this would be the last worship service we would ever have in this building.”
Community member and city librarian Nikita Thomas also stopped to pray and see the church.
“It was like a historical landmark,” Thomas said. “My first thought was who would burn down a church? It saddens me to see that someone would do this.
Tubbs says the church’s fellowship hall survived the fire and services will move in there for the time being. She has already received audio and broadcast equipment, chairs and various other necessities from other churches, and Bishop Gary Mueller presented a check for $5,000 to her parish during the prayer service.
She adds that even though the town has lost an important and significant building, the congregation survives and is stronger than ever.
“The building may be in ashes,” Tubbs said, “but we are not.”