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“We will rebuild” Fire rips through Gaston County church near Crowders Mountain

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Investigators are looking into what caused a church in Gaston County to catch fire early Monday morning.
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 12:24 PM EDT
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GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - Investigators are looking into what caused a church in Gaston County to catch fire early Monday morning.

Flames could be seen shooting through the roof of Landmark Baptist Church in the Crowders Mountain part of Gastonia. Much of the roof is gone, and the sanctuary has extensive damage.

No one was inside at the time of the fire.

“A call had just gone across the radio that there was a fire across the street from the mountain stop convenience store, and the sheriff’s deputy knew my son and said is that not your dad’s church that he pastors?” Pastor Forrest Hennessee told WBTV.

He rushed to his church to see it up in flames. Memories of his life in this building were flashing through his mind.

“I was called to preach at this church, I was ordained at this church, I preached my first sermon at this church, I was married at this church, and my children have been raised at Landmark Baptist Church,” he said.

As soon as it was safe, Pastor Hennessee opened the church door to see what was left.

“The majority of the fire was in the attic, but as it burned the rafters gave way and the ceiling collapsed on top of the instruments, the pews, it is totally destroyed,” he said.

His sadness is overshadowed by desire to move forward.

“God is good, that’s his very essence in nature,” he said. “We’re not angry. We’re optimistic and we’re looking forward to the challenge that lays ahead.”

He says that peace also stems from the support of 130 church family members and people he does not even know.

“I have been overwhelmed by the support in this community,” he said. “Especially the local churches that have responded and called. People that we’ve never met in our life offering facilities, assistance, anything that we need, please call us.”

While the road to rebuilding will be long, he says his congregation has never been less alone.

“It warms my heart to know there’s people who still care,” he said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but the fire marshal says they do not suspect any foul play.

They plan to move forward with church services as usual, using the building behind the church that was untouched by the flames.

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