Fire Department officials are investigating a devastating fire that resulted in roughly $200,000 worth of damages at the building of Goodwill Baptist Church, a historic Black church in Austin, Texas. Investigators believe that the fire, which occurred on the evening of March 6, was intentionally set.
The fire, which investigators described as having “an incendiary cause,” resulted in roughly $150,000 of structural damage with an additional $50,000 worth of lost property.
No injuries were reported.
While the church is small, with an estimated 15 to 20 members, Goodwill Baptist Church has been a part of the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood in South Austin for almost 120 years.
Kelvin Austin, pastor of Goodwill Baptist, expressed sorrow regarding the fire but nevertheless indicated that he will continue pointing his congregation toward faith.
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“It’s a tragedy to see that this has happened, but we bless God because we know that he moves in miraculous and strange ways, so we will trust that he will allow us to recover from this,” Austin told CBS Austin.
Austin expressed that he can’t imagine who would have started the fire, telling KXAN, “I just for the life of me…We’ve never had a cross word with anybody in the community. They’ve always been encouraging…Heartbreaking to know that somebody in this season would do something like that to God’s house.”
Investigators said that the fire began in the church’s fellowship hall, quickly spreading to other parts of the facility. Firefighters were able to extinguish it within minutes of arriving on the scene.
James Talbot, who lives nearby the church building, told Austin American-Statesman that he called 911 after hearing the crackle of the fire from inside his home.
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“I was screaming,” Talbot said. “I was afraid the big sanctuary would burn up. It would have gone up in a flash.”