CASS COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Another East Texas church has burned, and investigators have not ruled out arson as the cause.
Early Thursday morning, the Atlanta Fire Department responded to a fire at the Bethsaida Y Baptist Church on County Road 4223, after someone reported smoke coming out of the fellowship hall.
Authorities are not sure how it started, but at least one church member is already offering a reward if it was started deliberately.
If it had not been cleaning day, the fire at Bethsaida Y Baptist Church might have done much more damage than it did.
"They come in to clean on Thursday, real early," said Wayne Sikes, a church deacon. "It was about 6 a.m., and when they pulled in they saw smoke coming out of the side of the building, and it just went from there."
The fire was mostly in the kitchen area of the fellowship hall, and authorities say it was put out pretty quickly. Sikes says that is because someone had an eye on the little church, that has been there for more than a century.
"The Lord was in this because the whole mess didn't burn - just smoke damage, which can be replaced," said Sikes. "If the doors were left open, and it had gotten air, it probably would have burnt or damaged both buildings. God just didn't want it to burn."
Investigators are still trying to figure out how the fire started, but they feel confident that it is not connected to this year's string of church arsons.
"I don't think it's even remotely related," said Robin Betts, with the Atlanta Fire Department. "This is probably the first church fire we had in several years."
But, that is not stopping one church member from trying to keep another church from suffering the same fate.
"I will personally put up a $500 reward if you'll mention that in church to help the community come up with the yahoos that are doing all this stuff to us," said one church member.
But, for now, church members are thankful the entire building was not destroyed, and asking the same questions other congregations had to ask months ago.
"Why? That's the only thing I could ask," said Sikes. "If you're going to break in and steal something, steal it and get out, don't tear it up."
The church does have insurance, and most of the damage should be covered.
If you have any information on this fire, contact the Atlanta Fire Department.