Photo by Lt. Mike Owens
Fire erupts from the attic of Barton United Methodist Church.
Fire destroys Barton church
Barton United Methodist Church was destroyed by fire Thursday night of last week but plans are already in the works to rebuild.
“It’s a minor setback,” said Bruce Farley, chairman of the administrative board. “We will come out of this just fine.
“We don’t understand why it happened, but we will deal with it.
“God has plans for us. We just have to keep praying.”
He said the brick building on Highway 309 was constructed in 1961 with a fellowship hall added in the late ’80s or early ’90s.
“It was a 100 percent total loss, except for two iron doors on the front,” Farley said. “They will be taken out and refurbished and put in the new church.
“When we get everything settled, we will start cleaning up and get an architect and start drawing up plans. It will be a nice church – bigger and better. It’s all to the glory of God – that’s what we are here for.”
He said the church was established in the 1880s.
“My great-grandfather brought a wood structure from Holmes Road and Byhalia Road to this location,” Farley said.
Cayce and Barton fire departments were the first on the scene December 15 just shortly after 6 p.m.
Harry Willis, chief at Cayce, and Buck Culver, chief at Barton, said heavy smoke was coming from the eaves and the steeple.
Culver said there was a heavy fire load in the attic area and it started ventilating itself and spread quickly.
“It was really burning throughout the whole roof and all, and it took off from there,” he said.
Willis said firemen tried to make entry into the building shortly after arrival when heavy smoke was billowing but there was zero visibility inside.
“Shortly after, fire shot through the roof higher than the steeple,” Willis said. “The attic area was entirely engulfed in flames.
“It went everywhere. There was no stopping it.”
Culver said there were 36 firemen and 11 trucks on the scene – from Barton, Cayce, Byhalia and Mt. Pleasant.
“Unfortunately we did lose it (the church building), but everybody was working hard and working together,” Willis said.
One hydrant in the church parking lot was utilized, plus another across Highway 302. Some trucks were used to directly fight the fire, Willis said, while others helped shuttle water from the other source.
“We never ran out of water,” he said.
Firemen were on the scene for more than four hours. And Culver said Barton firefighters were back several times during the overnight hours as “hot spots were flaring up.”
The Barton fire chief urged others to step forward to join volunteer firefighting efforts in Marshall County.
“We are always looking for help,” Culver said. “Our fire departments are low on personnel.”
Farley said Barton United Methodist Church has been contacted by numerous other churches, offering use of their facilities.
“I don’t know how many churches have contacted us and said, ‘y’all come,’” Farley said. ‘We have a meeting place for you.’ And we are very thankful for that.”
He said Sunday services at Barton United Methodist are from 9:45 a.m. to 10:40 on Sundays and at Mt. Pleasant from 11 a.m. to 12 noon, with pastor Michael John “M.J.” Pope preaching for both.
“For the present time, we will meet at Mt. Pleasant,” he said, “and then we will discuss where we want to meet.”
If anyone would like to make donations to Barton United Methodist Church, please send them to Barton UMC, P.O. Box 51, Mt. Pleasant, MS 38649.
Tracy Jeffries, Marshall County fire investigator, said the cause of the fire is undetermined. He said the state fire marshal and the ATF will visit the scene this week.
“They automatically come when it is a church fire,” Jeffries said. “It’s just procedure. We are not saying there is anything suspicious.”