Investigators search for cause of fire in historic Seguin building

Building housed apartments, church's food pantry

SEGUIN, Texas – Fire investigators in Seguin plan to review surveillance video from nearby businesses, hoping to determine what caused a fire in a historic building.

The structure, located in the 200 block of S. Camp Street, contains a church and food pantry, as well as five residential apartments. 

Seguin fire Chief Dale Skinner said everyone made it out of the building safely after the fire broke out at around 1 a.m. Wednesday.

“The fire was a little challenging for us because of the age of the structure,” Skinner said. “It took about five hours for us to get it under control.”

By then, most of the building had been gutted. 

Originally constructed in 1877, the building was home to First Baptist Church. Throughout the years, a number of businesses, including a radio station, have occupied the space.

The section containing the apartments was added onto the back of the building in 1916. 

Most recently, Divine Fellowship Ministries, which offers Sunday church services and a community food pantry on Thursdays, had been utilizing the space.

Don Crane, the church pastor, said the fire has left the ministry in need of help.

"I have $4,000 or $5,000 worth of food in there plus the inventory, but (health inspectors) say that I can't get anything out,” Crane said.  

Crane said the ministry serves as many as 300 people every week. He said usually around the beginning of the month, many of his clients are able to manage. However, he anticipates they will become more desperate for the food pantry’s help later in the month.

As for Sunday services, Crane said he will hold them outdoors.

Helda Lopez, who regularly worships there with her family, said she had a tough time explaining the fire to her preschool age daughter. She said she’s also having trouble accepting the loss.

"We started it from nothing and then just to see it go down like that,” she said, fighting back tears.

Lopez found out about the fire after receiving a call from a friend at around 3 a.m on Wednesday. She rushed down to the site and captured images of the burning building on her cell phone.

Meanwhile, Crane said he holds onto hope that his ministry will continue better and stronger.

"There's a better day coming, see? God's going to give me a bigger building,” Crane said.

The future of the old building, meanwhile, isn’t quite as certain. A team of city engineers and the fire chief toured the site Thursday morning. They said what’s left of the structure is unsafe.

Seguin spokeswoman Morgan Ash said the property owner will have to make the determination of whether the property should be leveled.

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