ST. ALBANS, W.Va. — A church congregation will hold onto its faith to get through a devastating fire. The fire started about 11 p.m. Wednesday night at the Green Valley Church of God near St. Albans. Pastor Tom Coll was the first to learn of the fire through an alert from the alarm company.
“Security company called and said the alarm had gone off and they had called the fire department,” said Coll who went into the smokey building to try and investigate. “It was just smoke and when the Fire Chief got here, he chased me out. The fire trucks showed up and got busy on it.”
The blaze apparently started in the basement or possibly the basement ceiling. Kanawha County Fire Coordinator C.W. Sigman said when it finally burned its way through the church floor, there was no stopping it.
“The were investigating and trying to figure out where it was and get a line on it, but it broke through the floor and at that point the fire was obvious,” he said. “The floor collapsed pretty early into it and there was a big hole in the floor. We almost had a couple of fire fighters go through that floor.”
The firemen managed to escape without injury, but the fire consumed the entire building in short order.
“Once it came through the floor, it was pretty much a rip roaring fire and pretty bad.,” said Sigman.
The church was a total loss. Excavation crews were brought to the scene Thursday morning to tear down what remained and allow firemen to douse hot spots in the smoldering remains of the structure.
The church opened in 1920’s, but the building was modern construction and according to Sigman was well maintained. Coll grew up in the church, but moved around to serve as pastor for churches in other parts of the country until four years ago when he returned to St. Albans.
“We’ve had an offer for a place to meet on Sunday and we’ll go from there,” he said. “We average about 30 on Sunday morning, but God has a plan.”
The state Fire Marshall is investigating a cause. Church members held their normal Wednesday night worship service in the church ahead of the fire and everyone had left by 8 p.m. on Wednesday. The fire was noticed two hours later.