NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - A church in Nacogdoches County was deemed a total loss after a fire that officials say may be weather-related.
According to the Lilbert-Looneyville Volunteer Fire Department, at about 4:59 a.m. on Monday, several crews responded to the Trawick Presbyterian Church on State Highway 204, near County Road 831. At first, the caller reported a possible grass fire behind the church. At about 5:05 a.m., another person reported the church itself was on fire.
“When I left my driveway, I could see the glow in the sky and I pretty well known that it was blown completely up,” said Micheal Ray Russell, member since 1975. “And when I got here, the fire department was already here. The flames were going through the roof."
In just minutes of their arrival, the church was fully involved and crews found the fire had vented through the roof of the church. Lilbert-Looneyville fire reported the rapid growth of the fire was due to high winds.
“Very sad. I’m a fourth-generation [member of the church]," said Sarah Vaught, organist, church treasurer, and member since the 1950s. “I went to the church when I was a child and knew all of my grandparents and great-grandparents coming and enjoyed being with my family. There’s a lot of memories in the church we have."
Crews were able to contain the fire and stayed on the scene till 10 a.m. putting out hotspots.
The department’s preliminary investigation indicates the fire started when high winds snapped an electric pole near the church which pulled the wires and weather head from the building. A neighbor also reported seeing a lightning strike near the church.
The church was deemed a total loss.
“It was very sad, very emotional, especially for a lot of the older members, and we’re a very small group,” said Russell. “It was pretty emotional for everybody.”
“Yesterday, I was busy with people calling or coming to see me offering their church for us to come worship,” Vaught said. “It was just hard, but we’re really trying to get back."
A church in the area has offered a piano, songbooks, and a pulpit to the congregation so they may continue worshipping while they work toward rebuilding.
According to the fire department, the members of the church will continue to have services. They will meet at the old Linn Flat VFD fire station and community center until they can rebuild.