SBI: No foul play suspected in Duplin County church fire

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ROSE HILL, NC (WITN)- The SBI says there's nothing to indicate foul play in a fire that destroyed a historic Duplin County church early Monday.

Fire broke out around 8:00 a.m. in the sanctuary of the Rose Hill United Methodist Church. The church, which was built in 1920, was destroyed.

An SBI spokeswoman says while the fire is still under investigation, agents have found nothing at this point to suspect any foul play was involved.

Firefighters from departments across Duplin County worked to put out the blaze at the church.


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2018 is off to a tragic start for one local community after emergency crews spent nearly all day battling a fire that destroyed a nearly 100-year-old historical church.

On the first day of the new year, the sanctuary of Rose Hill United Methodist Church now looks like more like a
charred skeleton.

Around 8 a.m. Monday, flames ripped through the sanctuary.

"I looked around, and then I looked outside and there was nothing but smoke coming in the front of my window," says Tony Woodrich, a Duplin County resident.

Woodrich called 911 and then started recording video of the high-rising flames shooting from the church.

Hours later, crews remained on scene battling the remaining hot spots from up above.

Down below, the intense cold brought its own challenges.

"The water that hits the structure is essentially putting the fire out, but any water that blows off and doesn't hit the fire is turning into ice," explains Matt Barwick, the Duplin County Emergency Management director.

Firefighters from departments across Duplin County worked to put out the blaze at the 98-year-old church.

"Once they made entry into the doorway of the church, the fire then pushed them back outside when the roof collapsed," Barwick says.

Within one hour, the blaze was under control and members of the SBI and ATF have declared the sanctuary a total loss.

"It's really sad to see what's happened to it," Woodrich tells WITN.

Community members say their faith is bigger than the sanctuary walls.

"The people of God to come, out of the four walls, and to get out here and to minister," says Warren Kearney, another Duplin County resident.

Emergency management says while the sanctuary is a total loss, the fellowship hall is likely still salvageable.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the SBI.


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A church that was built in 1920 has been destroyed by a fire.

Matt Barwick, Duplin County Director of Emergency Management, says crews got the call around 8 am that Rose Hill United Methodist Church was on fire. When crews arrived on scene, the building was fully involved.

Barwick says that the roof collapsed as firefighters made entry, forcing them to move to defensive operations due to safety concerns.

The fire is under control at this time, but the sanctuary is a total loss.

The fellowship hall has some water and smoke damage but is still intact.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the SBI.

Several fire departments are on scene including Warsaw, Teachy, Rose Hill, North East, and Pin Hook.

According to its website, the church was established in 1895/6 under a brush arbor. It goes on to say that a few years later, a wooden church was built followed by the current building in 1920.


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Firefighters in Duplin County are battling a massive church fire.

Details are limited at this time but the blaze is at the Rose Hill United Methodist Church at 314 E. Church Street.

Several fire departments are on scene including Warsaw, Teachy, Wallace, and Rose Hill.

According to its website, the church was established in 1895/6 under a brush arbor. It goes on to say that a few years later, a wooden church was built followed by the current building in 1920.

WITN has a reporter headed to the scene.

We'll bring you more details as we receive them.