About 100 firefighters battled a massive fire that caused extensive damage to a Beaufort County church Monday, fire officials said.
The fire happened at First Christian Church at 401 E, 2nd St. in Washington. Witnesses said they began seeing smoke at about 3 p.m. Monday. Heavy smoke was gushing out of the building for hours.
Washington Fire Chief Robbie Rose expects crews to be on the scene until at least midnight. Fire crews are trying to battle flames that are forming underneath the metal roof of the church, and in between the wood, said Rose. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
According to acting Senior Minister Chad Penhorwood, he saw smoke and flames coming from within the sanctuary. Three church members were inside at the time, including Penhorwood. Everyone got out safely, Penhorwood said.
"It was scary. I got a little anxious, kinda jumpy, kinda like a scared puppy," Penhorwood said. "We've loss windows, we've loss pews, we've loss many things-- but that can be replaced. We're gonna rebuild, we're gonna be fine."
Church members came out to see the damage to their church. Among the crowd was 81-year-old Clyde Roberson.
"Except for the home I live in, it's the most important thing that I've got. "It's part of me -- the church-- it's part of me," Roberson said. "I'm just at a terrible loss. I just hate to see it go, but as long as nobody was hurt."
Another church member who was devastated at the loss of the church was 17-year-old Luke Ainsworth.
"I don't get choked up easily," Ainsworth said. "But this is definitely heart wrenching. I'm going off to college in a couple of months and its hard to see this."
No injuries were reported.
According to the First Christian Church's website, the church was established in 1891. There are 320 active members.