Fire destroys Limestone Co. church - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Fire destroys Limestone Co. church

Cherry Grove Missionary Baptist Church was destroyed by fire. Cherry Grove Missionary Baptist Church was destroyed by fire.

A Limestone County church was destroyed by a fire overnight.

Cherry Grove Missionary Baptist Church at 6530 Cherry Grove Road in Athens caught on fire around 4:30 a.m. Monday, and was reduced to smoldering rubble early Monday morning.

The pastor said he knew the building was doomed even before he got to the scene.

"I was shocked and sad," said Rocio Hostetler, a church member. "This is where I came when I was adopted. My home church and everyone was so sweet to me - a lot of special memories with all the church family."

"When it topped the hill over there on Stenna Hollow, that's about five miles as the crow flies, I'd say, and I could see the flames and I started praying right then, 'Hey God, do something big.  Do something big,'" said Pastor Chris Pirtle.

The building, which dates back to 1902, is a total loss.

Pirtle said the church has insurance, and the congregation is poised for rebuilding.

ATF and the State Fire Marshal's Office are investigating.

State fire investigators plan to come in on Thursday and start going through the wreckage of the building to figure out what caused all this. They said it's going to be a lengthy process. For one thing, they'll need heavy equipment to pick up the tin roof which fell in, essentially, one very large piece on top of everything else.

Meanwhile, church leaders say, for their part, their work is going to continue uninterrupted.

"Material things are not so important.   It's more the people that are important and changing lives is more important than anything built out of wood and stone," said deacon Tim Thompson.

"We'll meet Sunday morning, start our missions conference just like normal. Hey, the church building's gone; the church is fine," said Pirtle.

The  investigation by the state and the ATF is routine in the case of church fires.

No injuries were reported.

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