orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Local News

March 26, 2014

Fire damages old FBC property acquired by Stark Foundation

ORANGE — A fire late Monday caused moderate damage to a historic building in downtown Orange.

The First Baptist Church of Orange building, located at the corner of Fifth Street and Green Avenue, sustained damage from a fire which was reported shortly after 11 p.m., Monday. No injuries were reported.

According to information provided by Deputy Fire Chief Jerald Ziller of the City of Orange Fire Department, units arriving at the scene reported “heavy fire” coming from the dome at the top of the structure. A ladder truck was deployed to extinguish the majority of the blaze before personnel attacked the fire from the roof of the church building directly through the use of scaffolding, which was being utilized by construction crews conducting renovation of the facility.

Ziller stated fire crews utilized a hand line to extinguish the remaining flames and remained on scene to monitor any hot spots in order to prevent the fire from restarting. Fire personnel were able to contain the flames to the dome structure.

“Quick response by the City of Orange Fire Department isolated the fire to the top of the dome structure,” stated a press release issued by Ellen Welker of the Stark Foundation. “Their skill minimized damage and no one was hurt. The Sanctuary was not damaged and there was minimal water impact to the facility.”

In a recent interview with Walter Riedel III, president and CEO of the Stark Foundation, First Baptist Church location in downtown Orange was purchased in 2013 by the foundation because it “wanted to preserve a landmark property in town.”

“We are doing a renovation of the church, but it is going to a multi-year project,” Riedel said prior to Monday’s fire.

Riedel said plans for the complex included the possible demolition of the three education buildings, as well as potentially tearing the down the Family Life Center.

Riedel said plans include using the sanctuary as a small lecture hall, while other features of the structure would be utilized as a research library and for the Stark Foundation archives.

No other comments were available from Riedel or Stark Foundation representatives on Tuesday and whether Monday’s fire could change any of these plans.

Along with firefighters from the City of Orange, personnel from the  West Orange Volunteer Fire Department and Acadian Ambulance Service offered assistance at the scene of the fire.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined and is still under investigation.

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