WARSAW, N.C. (WNCT) – A community is devastated in Duplin County after a historic church was severely damaged in a fire, believed to be caused by a lightning strike.
Multiple crews responded to a fire at the 1st Baptist Church in Duplin County around 10 p.m. Saturday night. No one was inside the church at the time of the fire.
WNCT’s Elizabeth Tew had these images sent to her showing flames coming from the roof of the church on 1st Baptist Church Road just outside Warsaw.
The Smith family has lived across the street from the church the majority of their lives, and saw the fire start.
“We just heard a big boom,” Sonia Smith said. “We just thought, lightning had struck something. I got up out the door and looked, and the back of the church was on fire. It is depressing because that church has been there close to 120 years.”
Her daughter Montena Smith added, “I was crying the most about the church that I grew up in and memories of my grandparents, my mom, my sisters, everybody that I loved.”
The aftermath of the fire showed water, heat and smoke damage. The Warsaw Fire Department deemed it a total loss.
However, one thing came out unscathed.
“The bible that the firemen brought to us… They were actually able to save this off the pastor’s pulpit,” Sonia said. “It’s been with the church for years.”
“The interior fire crew came out and handed me the bible,” first responded Leighann Coombs said. “We always try to get the Bible out. God comes first.”
“I think God is trying to tell us something,” Sonia said. “Get the bible, read it and abide by his rule. That’s all I can say. Have faith in him, and live by his word.”
The Smith’s cherish the one thing that’s left of their church, but recognize that material possessions can be replaced.
“Just remember that God is in your heart. It’s not in the building,” Sonia said. “We hate to see it go, but you still have to have Christ in your heart. That’s all that matters. You can take the church with you wherever you go. As long as everybody was safe, and nobody was in there, that’s all that matters at this point.”
Several churches and organizations have already reached out to the church to donate pews and other items. Kenansville Eastern Missionary Baptist is providing a space for them to hold service next Sunday.
They welcome any donations from the community.