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Fire detroys church annex

POSTED: April 15, 2007 5:00 a.m.
The congregation of Pleasant Grove AME church on Oglethorpe Highway may be down, but they’re not out, as an annex which was 98 percent complete was destroyed by a fire Friday afternoon.
The former World War II-era structure was going to serve as a temporary church while a new one was being built next door.
When firefighters arrived shortly before 4 Friday afternoon, heavy smoke and flames were pouring through the roof of the single-story structure. Firefighters had a difficult time putting out the fire because the original pinewood was over 60 years old and extremely dry, according to Hinesville fire inspector Capt. Rick Perryman.
“The wood inside the building is normally called fat lighter, which is very difficult to extinguish.” Perryman said.
When firefighters got the fire under control in one section of the roof, another spot would flair up. The fire according to Perryman was contained to the attic.
Lelon Fraiser, was working in the church building a handicap ramp when the fire broke out.  He said a friend, who had been cutting grass, ran into the building yelling, “The building is on fire.”
“When I got outside I saw nothing but smoke, and I called 911,” Fraiser said.
Pastor John Morse, said the building was nearly complete and was going to be dedicated within a few weeks.
“We just had some minor finishing touches to make.”
Morse said the building was going to be used as a temporary church while the congregation built a new one
“We were going to use it to hold our services while we construct our new building next door.  It was going to be our temporary sanctuary.”
The congregation will continue to hold services in the old sanctuary which had been slated to be torn down once the annex was in operation.  According to Morse the older church had become too small for the 389-member congregation.
Morse said, “This is a set back, and they intend on rebuilding.” 
As firefighters began the mop up stage of putting out hot spots, members of the congregation formed a circle and offered prayer.
No one was injured in the fire.
Afterward Morse asked someone to start singing.
“Give us a cheerful song,” he asked of no one in particular.
One by one members began singing and clapping their hands as firefighters continued to extinguish flames about 50 feet from them.
Perryman said the state fire marshal on Saturday determined the fire was the result of an electrical problem.
The fire took more than two hours to bring under control.
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