ATF, SBI Investigating Historic Church Fire In Washington

State and federal investigators are at the scene of Monday''s massive fire that tore through a historic Washington church.

Fire was spotted around 2:45 p.m. at the First Christian Church on Second Street.

More than 100 firefighters from several counties spent several hours battling the blaze.

This morning, a half dozen ATF investigators, along with the SBI went into the church to start their investigation.

Washington Fire Chief Robbie Rose says the fire is not suspicious, and there is no reason to suspect arson.

The chief said the fire began around the baptismal.

Rev. Chad Penhorwood said they had baptisms on Sunday, and the baptismal has heated coils for the water. Penhorwood says it could possible happen that those coils were left on.

Chief Rose said because it's an historic building, they don't want to say it is a total loss yet. Rose said a structural engineer will have to determine whether the building can be salvaged.

According to a history of the congregation, construction on the church began in 1921.

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The clean-up and recovery process is underway for a local church, after the building caught fire Monday afternoon.

The First Christian Church on Second Street in Washington was built back in 1921. Fire crews were still on scene Monday evening.

While the building took a hit, plenty of pieces of the church's history were recovered by firefighters. Members are hoping to move forward without letting go of their memories.

Lifelong church member Suellen Weaver tells WITN that she was married in the church. Her son was also baptized there.

The fire broke out around 2:45 p.m. in the sanctuary, which was remodeled just two years ago. Stained glass windows were smashed in as crews pumped water inside.

Reverend Chad Penhorwood was one of the three people inside at the time. All of them escaped uninjured.

Firefighters made trip after trip, carrying items recovered from inside the building.

"Well the history of the church is important, and our denomination is based on the history of each individual congregation," explains Milton Dail, church moderator. "So it's good that we have the pieces that we can carry with us wherever we may end up."

Plans are already in place for Sunday's service. They'll combine the two services into just one, which will be held at 10:00 a.m. at Redman's Lodge.

No word yet what started the fire. The S.B.I. has been called in to investigate.

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Washington, NC - Some 100 firefighters continue to battle a massive fire at an historic church in Washington.

It's happening at the First Christian Church on 2nd Street.

Smoke is billowing from the building. Streets around the church are being blocked off.

We have reports the fire was first spotted in the ceiling of the sanctuary around 2:45 p.m. We're also hearing the power may be shut off to some of the nearby areas.

The church was built in 1921, while the sanctuary was just remodeled two years ago.

Rev. Chad Penhorwood says he and two other people were inside when the fire was first noticed in the sanctuary. Penhorwood says he doesn't know what started the fire at this point.

Greenville sent its 100 foot ladder truck to Washington to help keep the fire from spreading to adjacent structures. Williamston also dispatched a ladder truck to the scene.

Stained glass windows were smashed as crews pumped water into the structure.

Chief Robbie Rose says the heat from the metal ceiling is what's causing problems for his firefighters. The chief says at this time there is no threat of the fire spreading to nearby homes.

Members say already a Methodist church has offered the congregation space to hold services.