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Officials: Discarded fireworks may have started church blaze

January 11, 2022 GMT

LEESVILLE, La. (AP) — Carelessly discarded New Year’s fireworks may have started a blaze that destroyed much of a church, the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office says.

Investigators haven’t determined a definite cause of the fire at Christian Living Fellowship in Leesville, but did find remnants of fireworks in the area where the fire started between a shed next to a church wall, spokeswoman Ashley Rodrigue said.

Pastor Bobby Ganaway told The American Press that he received an alert of possible trespassers just after 1 a.m. on Jan. 1 but nobody was there when security volunteers arrived.

Fire was spreading from the shed to the church when firefighters responded to an alarm about 2:30 a.m., authorities said.

Ganaway said firefighters may have saved the sanctuary from destruction.

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“They fought the fire for three long hours trying to save the sanctuary. I watched as they would come out for oxygen and rest for just a moment and go back in there,” he said.

However, insurance adjusters have said the building may have to be gutted because of water damage, Ganaway said.

He said several hundred people — members of his and other churches — worshiped that Sunday at a large cross erected when the church was built in 2018.

“We couldn’t let the devil win,” Ganaway said.

He said other churches offered their buildings to the congregation, but Christian Living Fellowship is holding services at Vernon Parish Fairgrounds, he said.

“We have had to downgrade our services from three services to one on Sundays, but we will do what is necessary,” said Ganaway.