LEESVILLE, Louisiana (AP) – Carelessly thrown New Year’s fireworks may have started a blaze that destroyed much of a church, according to the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Investigators did not determine the precise cause of the fire at Christian Living Fellowship in Leesville, but found remains of fireworks in the area where the fire started between a shed next to a wall of church, spokeswoman Ashley Rodrigue said.
Pastor Bobby Ganaway told the American press that he received a possible intruder alert just after 1 a.m. on January 1, but that no one was there when the security volunteers arrived.
The fire was spreading from the hangar to the church when firefighters responded to an alarm at around 2:30 a.m., authorities said.
Ganaway said firefighters may have saved the sanctuary from destruction.
“They fought the blaze for three long hours trying to save the shrine. I watched as they would come out for some oxygen and rest for a moment and go back, ”he said.
However, insurance adjusters said the building may need to be gutted due to water damage, Ganaway said.
He said several hundred people – members of his church and other churches – worshiped this Sunday at a large cross erected during the construction of the church in 2018.
“We couldn’t let the devil win,” Ganaway said.
He said other churches have donated their buildings to the congregation, but the Christian Living Fellowship is hosting services at the Vernon Parish Fairgrounds, he said.
“We had to reduce our services from three services to one on Sunday, but we will do what is necessary,” said Ganaway.