Air conditioning problem triggered fire that destroyed 100-year-old section of NC church

North Carolina news

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — A Guilford County church was left with shattered stained glass windows and a ruined roof and sanctuary.

Fire crews blocked off the building Friday because it’s not safe or secure due to the extensive damage.

Late Friday afternoon, fire investigators reported the cause of the fire was “related to an unspecified malfunction in the air conditioning unit in proximity to the front foyer entryway.”

Members of the church came and went all day to see for themselves why they will have to gather at a sister church this weekend.

“All my life, from when I was in my mother’s womb, I was coming to church,” Ronald Herbin said.

On Friday, some dedicated members of Celia Phelps United Methodist Church gathered to pray like they do every Sunday.

“I’ve been in church almost all my life, but I’ve only been saved since I joined this church,” Clifford Hearne said.

But this time, it was outside the more than century-old sanctuary, which was left charred and blackened because of smoke and heavy fire.

“The church. Oh, wow. It’s really on fire,” a man told 911 dispatchers around 3:30 a.m. “I saw the light and heard glass popping.”

“I have no words for what I’m feeling for what happened,” Herbin said. “I don’t know why it happened.”

Pinecroft-Sedgefield firefighters spent about an hour putting out the flames at a place so many people called home.

“Horrified. Horrified. Especially when the light started coming up, and you could see what had happened,” Herbin said.

“Before I got here, I could smell a burning smell, which is shocking. And then, of course, seeing the gaping hole. Two holes. It’s just shocking,” Pastor Ellis Carson said.

Firefighters saved some church treasures: the original pews, chandeliers, plaques and the church Bible.

“The building was built around 1920. The worshipping congregation dates back to 1905,” Carson said.

Those relics are a ray of light for the saddened congregation.

“Everything happens for a reason. Something good may come out of this,” Hearne said.

“The worshipping body is still intact, whether we have to build a new building or fix certain parts of our building,” Carson said.

The church had a very active food pantry and was holding frequent vaccination clinics. Those will be on hold for now.

As for Sunday services, they were temporarily be held at Mount Tabor Church on Creek Ridge Road in Greensboro.

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