Federal agents to investigate fire at east side church

Arson investigators suspect fire may have been intentionally set

Author: Cory Smith, Reporter, csmith@ksat.com
Published On: Feb 02 2013 09:59:39 AM CST   Updated On: Feb 02 2013 09:47:06 AM CST
Church Fire Pic

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms say they will be in San Antonio on Monday to help investigators determine whether a fire at a historic east side church was intentionally set.

The Childress Memorial Church of God in Christ was destroyed early Saturday morning after a two alarm fire ripped through the building.

"It's just gone man," said a tearful church member. "All our memories and everything is just down the drain."

The first crews to arrive encountered heavy flames shooting through the church’s roof. A second alarm was quickly called in, but firefighters had difficulty extinguishing the blaze because of water pressure issues.

As the fire raged church members could only watch as their place of worship, a building that was erected in 1908, crumbled to the ground.

"The building is not our family, but we have a lot of family memories within this church that have just gone up in a blaze," said Paulette Bell. "I’m just so saddened for what has happened."

If the fire is determined to be an arson, it would be the seventh suspicious fire in the last two months on the city’s east side. Investigators said they believe house fires in the 500 block of Meerscheidt and the 200 block of Cooper were intentionally set last week.

Local fire officials said the ATF is being called in due to the sheer size of the building.

The historic building was constructed in 1908, and was originally called the Calvary Baptist Church. Pastor Samuel Iglehart took over as leader of the congregation for his father, Bishop T.D. Iglehart, in 1997.

Somehow, a picture of Pastor Iglehart’s father withstood the flames and water, and remained hanging in the church. Congregation members called it a small miracle.

The pastor said his congregation will move forward.

"It’s not 'church house,' it’s 'church body,'" said the pastor. "We can worship out in the street."

The church will hold a service at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center downtown.