NBC10 Philadelphia - Claudia Rivero
A 3-alarm fire damaged the In His Presence Worship Center in Millville, Cumberland County. Firefighters say high winds caused the flames to spread quickly. NBC10's Claudia Rivero has the story.
Fire investigators are working to determine if windy weather contributed to a 3-alarm blaze that destroyed a Millville, New Jersey church and left more than 100 homes without power Saturday.
Crews were called to the In His Presence Worship Center on East Broad Street in Cumberland County shortly before noon. Fire investigators say the blaze quickly engulfed the roof and the steeple collapsed down to the sanctuary. All the stain glass windows were also destroyed. It took nearly three hours for fire crews to get the blaze under control. Six fire departments responded to the scene.
About 119 homes were without power as of 11p.m. Saturday, according to Atlantic City Electric. Lloyd Storms, who lives along the 200 block of North Broad Street, says he will sleep in his car until power is restored.
“It's no warmer in there than it is out here that's why I'm sitting in my car with the heat on. Nothing more I can do about it,” Lloyd Storms told NBC 10.
Millville Fire Chief Kurt Hess says windy weather may have initiated the inferno.
“A piece of siding still attached swung across and hit electric lines. It generated a surge into the steeple, very preliminary right now,” Hess told NBC10.
Church members say about 15 people were inside the church preparing for a Christmas service or cooking food for the homeless.
"Everything flickered off and came on. A member got us out, it was kind of scary once we got outside and saw the smoke,” said Andrew Holmes.
Just across the street from the church, pizza shop owner Fred Burkett was preparing for the lunchtime crowd.
“I saw sparks flying across the corner of the building with flames and called 9-1-1,” said Burkett.
The pastor’s wife, Starr Ennis, says they’ve lost everything.
“The pews, hymnals, about 10 classrooms and computers,” said Ennis. “We did a lot of work and still had a lot of work to do but what are you going to do?"
No injuries were reported.
Members say on Sunday they will hold Christmas service at the Cornbread House, which is about nine miles from their gutted sanctuary.
Stay with NBC10.com for more on this developing story.