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Danville church 'pretty much a total loss'

Investigators are trying to determine what caused a fire that destroyed a church in Danville on Sunday night.

Preliminary investigations do not indicate that foul play caused the blaze at Church of God of America at 449 West Martin Luther King Boulevard, Danville Fire Chief Mike Thomas said.

"Firefighters found that the building was locked and secured when we arrived," Thomas said. "We actually had to force entry on every opening to the building, which leads me to believe that there likely was not a break-in done to the building. ... We're certainly looking at any all and aspects."

Investigators with the state fire marshal's office, Kentucky State Police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives were on the scene Monday, Thomas said.

The church was insured, and an investigator for the insurance company will look at the scene Tuesday and compare notes with the other investigators, said Deputy Fire Chief Woody Ball.

The fire destroyed the first floor, and metal roof trusses "are now lying on the floor of the church," Thomas said. "It's open to the heavens at this point. And because these trusses expanded, you can see where the exterior walls on the east and west sides of the building have pushed out somewhat. There's serious structural cracking of the masonry walls. It's pretty much a total loss."

Heavy equipment knocked down the east side wall, which was in danger of collapse, early Monday afternoon. The rest of the building will have to be demolished, too, Ball said.

Firefighters were called to the scene after 6 p.m. Sunday. Upon arrival, firefighters saw flames coming out of the roof and a west side window, Ball said. They were assisted by firefighters from the Boyle County and Stanford departments. In all, about 65 firefighters were at the scene, Thomas said.

Two firefighters — one with the Danville department and another from the Boyle County department — slipped and fell on the ice caused by the freezing water doused on the fire. Both were treated at the Danville hospital, Ball said.

Bishop Tim Napier said Sunday morning services had been canceled because of the weather. There were no evening services.

The building, dedicated in 1950, also was headquarters to other congregations in Shelbyville and Somerset, Napier said. The Danville congregation that meets there numbers about 40 or 50, he said.

Napier said several people have offered spaces for the Danville congregation to meet.

"There are some places we need to look at to see if they suit our needs," he said. "It may be towards the end of the week before we even start looking."

Meanwhile, the organization that works to improve downtown Danville pledged its support to help the church.

Julie Wagner, executive director of Heart of Danville, said the organization can help the church to look for low-interest financing to rebuild.

"We can help them through the permitting process so they can get their church built back as quickly as possible," Wagner said.

Asked whether the church will rebuild, Napier said, "We will move forward; we will have to. God's work has to go forward."