GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Church members say their pastor has died after a house fire in Mount Holly early Tuesday morning.
The fire broke out around 3 a.m. on W Catawba Ave near Pleasant Street, next to the Goshen Free Will Baptist Church where Pastor Clayton Burch preached, officials say.
Burch was in the home with his wife and dog when the fire broke out. The fire marshal originally said a passerby saw the flames and rang the doorbell to alert the family.
The fire marshal later said the smoke alarms were operating so it is assumed they alerted the family. Officials were still speaking to the witness as of Tuesday afternoon.
Burch was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries before later being flown to a burn unit in Winston-Salem.
His condition was not released by officials, but church members told WBTV Tuesday the pastor was in critical condition.
Burch’s wife, Barbara, was also taken to the hospital but was released a short time later. Church members said she then went to Winston-Salem to be with her husband.
Neighbors said the couple and their church hold a special place in the community.
“It’s always been a special place and the community has always known of this church and so it’s just a very special place.”
The home appeared to sustain heavy damage.
Officials believe the fire started in the garage, but investigators are still working to determine what sparked the flames.
According to the church’s website, Burch has served as pastor in several churches. He’s preached at Goshen Free Will Baptist for the past seven years.
A prayer service is being held Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the church. There will be a memorial service Saturday at 2 p.m.