IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) - Firefighters in Irving spent the morning battling a 3-alarm fire at a local church.
In the darkness, flames could be seen shooting from the roof of the Bear Creek Community Church on Finley Road, just north of the Airport Freeway.
Fire and smoke were already visible when firefighters arrived around 6:15 a.m. Ultimately, there were seven fire engines and four fire trucks among the 23 pieces of emergency equipment sent to the scene.
Irving Fire Department Battalion Chief Rick Sanderson said there were people inside the church when the fire broke out. "There were no occupants in the sanctuary area. It is a homeless shelter as well and they had about 11 folks in another part of the building."
Chief Sanderson said the 2nd alarm was called because of flames and the 3rd alarm was called, "Because of the nature of the building… it's a high-occupancy type, a high life-hazard. Knowing that there were some folks in the building somewhere we had to account for search and rescue and for the large sanctuary. It takes more manpower."
As for the damage, the Chief said there was water and smoke damage in other parts of the building and the sanctuary, which was built onto the church in 1969, will most likely be a total loss.
Ironically, the Pastor of Bear Creek Community Church, Denis Webb, spent nearly 30 years fighting fires in the City of Grand Prairie.
Pastor Webb said he had just gotten up to get on the church prayer line when he received the news. "I got a call from a firefighter friend of mine who told me that my church was on fire," he said. "In the process of talking to him he then told me that the fire had gone to a 3rd alarm. Well, I'm a retired firefighter and I know what a 3rd alarm means so I knew we had a pretty good fire."
Bear Creek Community Church only serves as a shelter when temperatures dip down at or below freezing. Pastor Webb explained the temporary housing program. "When the weather drops down to minus, or below 32 degrees, we are what's called an inclement weather shelter," he said. "What we do is we open up our fellowship hall and we allow homeless people to come in out of the cold, have a safe pace to stay and provide them meals. We've been averaging about 10 or 12 [people] over the last four days."
The City of Irving Emergency Management Coordinator and the Red Cross are working to find a place for those homeless people to stay.
Right now it isn't clear where parishioners will worship in the future, but no one was injured in the fire and Pastor Webb said that's the most important thing. "We can rebuild. So we're just grateful… we'll rebuild and we'll keep on serving the Lord. That building is not the church, that is the building that we use to worship in. The church is our members."
Investigators have ruled the cause as undetermined. They also ruled it was not malicious.
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