Church Destroyed in Early Morning Blaze

Just before 2:00 a.m. Tuesday a Lufkin police officer on patrol saw smoke coming out of New Bethel Baptist Church, but by the time firefighters got there, it was too late - the small white building just off Daniel McCall was on fire.

Authorities have an idea where the blaze started, but aren't saying much about the investigation.

"At this time, we have a couple spots [we believe the fire may have started in]," said fire inspector, Dustin Ledford. "It's still early in the investigation and to keep from interfering with that investigation, we don't want to release any information at this time."

Lufkin fire investigators are working with the state fire marshal's office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to find out what caused the blaze. The church building is a total loss but none of the homes nearby, including one on New Bethel's property, were damaged.

"The interior was fully engulfed; it had already vented when the fire department crews originally arrived on the scene. It was fully involved; it had already vented through the roof, therefore, they took a defensive stance and protected the surrounding structures."

It took about half an hour to put the fire out. Authorities aren't saying whether the blaze is suspicious, but said they are treating it like any other fire investigation until they have more information.

Anyone with any information on the church fire should call the Lufkin Fire Marshal's office at 633-0306. We tried contacting the pastor of New Bethel, he did not return phone calls to the East Texas News.