Hamlet Church Heavily Damaged By Fire

By: Robert Borrelli
By: Robert Borrelli

Hamlet United Methodist Church suffered heavy damage early Tuesday morning as a fire shot from the basement through the roof. Investigators say it was a short circuited light fixture that sparked the blaze.

The fire was noticed by an off-duty firefighter before it had spread very far.

And, the small congregation had just days before, removed many valuable items, preparing for some renovations.

Fire Captain Tony Dowd took NewsCenter 16 inside Hamlet United Methodist Church, a sanctuary gutted by fire early Tuesday.

It was a fire that could have done more damage if not for some good timing.

Tony Dowd is both the Hamlet fire department captain and a member of the church congregation. "There was fire in the one corner of the sanctuary, it had already burned through the wall and was burning up towards the eaves," he explained. "Mixed emotions,” he continues, “You know, you've got a job to do, you see part of your worship going up in smoke."

Investigators say the fire started in a basement light fixture, and burned an eight-foot-wide hole in the floor and eventually shot through the roof.

A picture taken by firefighter-in-training James Minker shows an aerial truck from the Knox Fire Department deployed during the height of the battle.

Captain Dowd says all the help from other departments made a world of difference. "Probably, if it wasn't for that aerial we probably would not have saved as much as we did," he says.

Timing is another reason so much was saved. Scaffolding was put up Sunday, when the small congregation of less than two dozen people got the church ready for ceiling repairs.
The altar and other items, like a large painting of Jesus, which hung above the altar were removed for safekeeping.

Dowd says, “We had all the other stuff in a different part of the church. So, we were able to save all that of the interior stuff."

Including all the stained windows in the Methodist church, which the building itself is more than 100-years old.

"Sometimes God works in mysterious ways”, says Dowd.

At the height of the fire, six different fire departments were pumping 1600 gallons of water a minute on the blaze. There was so much water that at one point, Hamlet's 200,000 gallon water tower was emptied.

This Sunday's church services at Hamlet United Methodist may be held in a sister church in Grovertown until the congregation figures out what to do next.

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