PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - The Alabama State Fire Marshal is in Phenix City surveying the damage from a Sunday night fire that destroyed an abandoned church.
The call came in around 9 o'clock Sunday evening, where fire officials were told this abandoned church on 6th Street in Phenix City was in fire. It took hours for crews to put out the blaze, and neighbors tell us they are thankful it wasn't worse.
Resident of a 6th Street home, Jonathan Evans told News Leader Nine, "The church was blazing, it was on fire. The back of it was burning up first, it was really big. The fire department got here as fast as they could. Thank God for them."
Because the roof caved in during the fire and the structure is declared unsafe, officials have not been able to enter to building to determine where the fire started. Phenix City Fire Chief Kris Kennedy tells News Leader Nine the Alabama Fire Marshal is being called to scene, as with any fire to a church or school.
The building was abandoned and overgrown, making it easier for the late night fire to spread. Evans said, "If it wasn't for the people outside to come and get us, we would have been in so much trouble. If the trees in our backyard caught on fire, it would have been over for this house."
Jonathan Evans lives just a few feet from the old church and says he hasn't seen the building in use in nearly eight years. Since the property has been vacant for so long, Phenix City officials tell us no one should have been inside at the time of the fire. But neighbors say they have seen people loitering in the area and they wouldn't be surprised if it was arson, "If it was arson, that's really bad. They don't understand how close they were to danger. It could have hurt my family."
Chief Kennedy says the state fire marshal will do a walk through to determine a cause of the fire and see exactly how much damage was done to the church.
News Leader Nine is following this story. We'll have the latest information as soon as it becomes available.