Church Fire Possibly Intentionally Set - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Church Fire Possibly Intentionally Set

An overnight weekend fire partially destroys an East Texas church.

It happened in Whitehouse at the Ambassador Baptist Church just off Highway 110 and County Road 2161. 

"Saturday morning I get the police knocking on the door," said Pastor Tony Godfrey. "Driving up there I was just praying, 'God, what are you doing?'"

He and other church members arrived at 2 a.m. Saturday to see their church in flames. They found multiple volunteer fire departments fighting the blaze. Whitehouse, Bullard, Troup, Chapel Hill spent hours battling the fire.

"When you pull up doesn't look like much happened to the building. But the majority of the fire was on the backside of my office," said Pastor Tony. "I lost everything. I don't have anything left. I have a bible left."

Smith County Fire Marshal Jim Seaton said the fire started near Pastor Tony's office. Much of the church was destroyed with extensive smoke and water damage.

"We did notice unusual things. A pattern up on the concrete driveway leading into the window there the fire originated," said Seaton. "It looked like a liquid had ran down the driveway. The arson K-9 did alert to these areas. It could be gasoline, kerosene, or diesel. We won't know untill we get samples back."

Investigators were unable to find accidental fire causes, but are still listing it as suspicious until test results are back.

Pastor Tony said even though it doesn't make sense, God has a bigger plan and he is excited to see what will come from this devastation.

"We have been reduced down to really nothing. Which is where the early church started. They had nothing yet they turned the world upside down," said Pastor Tony. "Everybody pulled together. We were banded together. If we are able to rebuild great. If not, we will meet in the YMCA."

Ambassador Baptist Church was also an early voting location. So because of the fire, early voting will now take place at Whitehouse United Methodist Church all this week. It is located on Main Street.

Danielle Capper, Reporting.


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