BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
CLEARFIELD — Federal, state and local investigators have been called in to determine the cause of a fire that severely damaged Clearfield Community Church on Tuesday afternoon.
“The cause is under investigation. Right now it’s undetermined,” Interim Clearfield Fire Chief Mark Becraft said Wednesday morning. He estimates damage between $750,000 and $1 million.
The fire was reported at the church, 500 East 200 South, just after 2:30 p.m. About 60 firefighters from eight agencies were called to the three-alarm fire, Becraft said.
The Rev. John Parsley, pastor of the church, the congregation’s secretary and several members of a youth class were in the building when the fire started. Everyone evacuated safely, Becraft said.
Members of the congregation and neighbors gathered at the church parking lot across the street to watch as crews battled the blaze.
“All I wanted to do is cry,” said longtime member Elsie Hall. When she heard about the blaze, she rushed to the church and joined the others.
“We could see everything from there,” she said.
The church is a landmark in the community, where there’s been an active congregation since the 1940s.
The fire was contained mainly to the west wing of the building, which was added to the church in 1980. That wing contained the auditorium and worship center, as well as several stained glass windows which were created by a member.
“All of our beautiful windows are blown out now,” Hall said.
Becraft said the building sustained smoke, heat and water damage to the eastern portion of the church, which was not burned.
Crews arrived on scene within five minutes of the blaze being reported and found heavy fire in the back of the church, Becraft said.
The fire appears to have started in the basement. Crews contained the fire to the west wing, but flames and heavy smoke caused them to back out of the building and fight it defensively from the outside, Becraft said.
Crews battled the blaze until 11:30 p.m., when it was completely extinguished. Firefighters remained on the scene throughout the night to watch for any hot spots. There were none, Becraft said.
The church board met Monday night to discuss what will happen now.
Hall, a board member, said the church has received several offers of places to meet as they rebuild. Clearfield City Mayor Don Wood offered the use of the city hall and the board is considering that, Hall said.
“At the meeting Pastor Parsley said, ‘God helped us to build this building, he’ll help us build another,’” Hall said.