Fire tears through Millville, NJ church

MILLVILLE, N.J. - December 22, 2012

A South Jersey church building, which stood for 135-years, is in charred ruins after a damaging fire Saturday night.

Fire crews were called to In His Presence Church in the 200 block of East Broad Street in Cumberland County just before 1:00 p.m.

Several choir members were inside In His Presence Church around noon in Millville when they say they heard a loud boom before they saw sparks and flames.

"We heard a mini-like explosion on the outside window, so we shut everything down and got out," said Minister Qeyman Bethune.

The wood of the historic building along with strong winds were fuel for the fast moving fire.

Choir members, who were rehearsing for Christmas services, ran from the burning building.

They believe a transformer blew causing the sparks which ignited the fire near the steeple and caused widespread power outages.

"All of that is under investigation," said Chief Kurt Hess. "The investigators are inside now looking at some things. Hopefully they will have some answers."

Investigators say the blaze quickly engulfed the roof and the church's steeple soon collapsed. All the stain glass windows were also destroyed.

It took nearly three hours for firefighters to get the blaze under control.

By the time upset members arrived, the church they have known for 10 years was gone, a day before their Sunday morning Christmas worship services.

"I don't want to say bad timing because I believe our times are in the hands of God," said Pastor David Ennis.

Pastor David Ennis says his church went from a handful of people in a hotel room to more than 150 members in this Millville landmark.

The building, built in 1877, was home to Broad Street Methodist for more than a century.

"So much of what you see around came after the church so that church has a lot of history, a lot of people attached to it," said Pastor Ennis. "That rainbow today did serve as a reminder that God is faithful to his word. He promised us in his words that He would never leave us or forsake us."

As the investigation into the cause continues, Pastor Ennis says the fire will not stop his congregation from worshipping.

Sunday morning services will be held at the Cornbread House Restaurant in Bridgeton, N.J. at 10:00 a.m.

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