COTTON PLANT, Ark. (KARK/KAIT) – A community mourns the loss of a historic church after three fires broke out in one night.
According to content partner KARK, the Cotton Plant Fire Department responded to a call on Sunday, March 27 for an abandoned building near Vine Street that was on fire.
When crews arrived on the scene, they also found smoke billowing from the 112-year-old United Methodist Church.
A bystander told KARK that it looked like the smoke and flames were coming from inside a room, but more smoke quickly spread to the roof and the fire covered the building.
KARK reported that while firefighters were responding to the two fires, a third fire broke out in another abandoned building less than a quarter mile from their location.
Two days after the fires, worshipers and supporters of The United Methodist Church gathered at the ruins to hold a prayer service.
Pastor Melanie Tubbs recalled arriving Sunday evening to find the church on fire.
“My first reaction was overwhelming grief,” she told KARK. “We had no idea Sunday morning that this would be the last worship service we would ever have in this building.”
Community member and town librarian Nikita Thomas described the church as “a historic landmark.”
“My first thought was who would burn down a church? It saddens me to see someone would do this,” Thomas said.
Tubbs told KARK that the church’s fellowship hall survived the fire and services will move there for the time being.
She has already received audio and broadcast equipment, as well as chairs and other necessities from other churches.
Bishop Gary Mueller also presented a check for $5,000 to Tubbs Parish during the prayer service.
She told KARK that even though the town lost an important building, the congregation is now stronger than ever.
“The building may be in ashes,” Tubbs said, “but we are not.”
The investigation into the fires is still ongoing, but no one was injured, according to a first responder at the scene.
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