STATESVILLE, N.C. — Firefighters are still on the scene of a large fire that destroyed a Statesville church early Monday morning.
Statesville Fire responded to a fire at the old Western Avenue Baptist Church on Wilson Lee Boulevard just before midnight Sunday night. In total, 33 firefighters from three stations responded to the scene. Fire officials said they were able to save a portion of the building but the main area has been condemned.
"We had the fire under control within about an hour of arriving on scene," said Statesville Fire Chief Spencer Lee. "There are still some hot spots and fires burning inside the building, like in the basement, but it's not a threat to anything else other than the existing building and it's already a total loss."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
The damage is so intense, firefighters say they were worried the building might collapse.
The church has been vacant for years, but a new ministry was getting ready to move in. They were in the process of renovations.
There are reports of vagrants, and Pastor James Hunter said they've found squatters in the church over the past few weeks. Whether those people were involved with the fire is still under investigation.
The building behind the church is not damaged, so church services will be held there.