Firefighters were called to Snellville United Methodist Church on Wednesday after a blaze gutted a kitchen in the basement at the rear of the old sanctuary. According to officials, fire spread slightly to the main level, caused heavy damage to the kitchen and sent smoke throughout a portion of the building. No injuries were reported.
SNELLVILLE -- Gwinnett County fire investigators are trying to determine what caused a fire Wednesday afternoon at a local church.
The blaze broke out in a basement kitchen area at Snellville United Methodist Church just after 3:30 p.m., said Gwinnett fire spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge. Firefighters had the flames knocked down in about 30 minutes, Rutledge said, but not before the kitchen was destroyed and an upstairs chapel and staff offices received smoke damage.
The affected building is adjacent to the main sanctuary, which escaped damage entirely, and houses a small chapel used for children's services. Church Pastor Richard Hunter said those services will be temporarily relocated to the youth suite.
At press time, firefighters were still hitting hot spots and investigators, aided by the Metro Fire/Arson Investigators Association, were on scene.
Rutledge said it's "standard protocol" for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to investigate church fires, especially where there is heavy damage involved.
"Right now, there's not anything that leads us to believe it's suspicious," Rutledge said. "However, it is still an active investigation."
Rutledge said investigators have not determined the exact cause of the fire.
The building, Hunter said, was built in 1940 by church members and has a lot of history and memories. Church officials didn't waste any time boarding up the building for safety, but Hunter said that thanks to good insurance, it will soon be repaired.
Rather than decrease attendance for Wednesday's midweek services, Hunter said the blaze may have brought more folks in.
"I think they rallied together over it," Hunter said, with a laugh. "There was good spirit here and everybody's thankful it wasn't worse and that no one was hurt."