Skip to comments.Fire destroys Durant (,OK) church - REPOST
Posted on 08/06/2002 9:12:17 AM PDT by smokinleroy
DURANT -- Hate and racism might have been the cause behind a church fire in Durant Sunday night. That day before the fire, First Assembly Pastor Michael Bradley said he received a disturbing phone message on the church's answering machine.
"The call came from someone saying they were the KKK," he said. "They used the 'N word' and everything, saying we better watch out."
The reason why Bradley says he thinks the church got a racist call is because they have several minority members, and are planning to host an assembly and choir session with "Charles Johnson and The Revivers" later this month. The Revivers is a minority assembly group.
The fire was first discovered at 9 p.m. by exiting members of a neighboring church. Pastor Darrel Bunch of Calvary Baptist said his members were leaving Sunday night assembly and saw the smoke billowing out of the rear of the church located right across the gravel parking lot on South 9th Street.
"We have our night assembly starting at 7, while First Assembly has theirs starting at 6," Bunch said. "Everyone at the other church was already gone by 8:30, while we were closing up at 9."
Durant Fire Chief Steve Dow said the investigation has been turned over to the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) department because they have more expertise in this kind of "suspicious fire." Dow did not elaborate if the fire was hate-crime related.
"It's a church fire with an unknown origin," Dow said. "Right now, the fire is undetermined at this point and those leads are going to be checked out ... We'll try to have more information tomorrow."
When word got to members of First Assembly that their church was on fire, many rushed to the scene.
"It seemed like in 30 minutes the church was totally engulfed in flames," said Gary Hammel, a deacon at First Assembly. "Fire and smoke reached the entire building including our family center. The flames were 30 to 40 feet high."
The fire was so intense, Hammel said, it cracked the front and side windshields of the Durant Fire Department's snorkel truck and melted some of its emergency lights. Across the street, trees were scorched and a police line encircles the entire half-block around the remains of the church.
"I can't even clean up the front yard of cups and water bottles," member Gene Price said about the police barrier. Price is also a deacon at First Assembly.
She went on to say she hopes the fire isn't a hate crime, but said, "We've lost everything -- the organ, guitars -- everything. Nothing is going to be saved."
Late Monday, Bradley assembled his board to discuss where the church is going to hold its next service. He said he hopes one can take place Wednesday night, but is confident there will be a service this coming Sunday. Bradley said he was in shock when he first saw the church on fire because that night he gave a sermon titled "Beauty for Ashes" from the book of Isaiah 4:6.
"We are going to make beauty from the ashes," he said. "But, if this was a hate crime, hopefully He will make them see the light ... God's going to get them in the end."
With the musty smell of smoke still lingering in the air, Bradley looks at what remains in disgust and disappointment.
"It's knowing that's where my office was, where I spent countless hours and preached between 300 and 400 sermons," he said. "Even my two favorite suits burned up."
After the fire, Bradley said he has received phone calls from churches all over the city with offerings of help and use of their buildings.
"I can't believe how many have come forward," he said. "We're really blessed to live in such a community."
Sorry for the double post - Half of the text got lost in the paste the first time.
Is that pronounced Durant or Durant?
Ooooooooooo they said the "N" word and everything... must be a genuine KKK terrorist incedent for suuuuuuuure....
Durant Fire Chief Steve Dow said the investigation has been turned over to the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) department because they have more expertise in this kind of "suspicious fire."
Audit the church's books and check their fire insurance, who knows what sort of crazy coincedences might turn up.
With the musty smell of smoke still lingering in the air, Bradley looks at what remains in disgust and disappointment. "It's knowing that's where my office was, where I spent countless hours and preached between 300 and 400 sermons," he said. "Even my two favorite suits burned up."
"They were uh, custom made Armanis, yeah, yeah, that's it, worth $2000 errr... $3000 each, don't forget to put that in the insurance report. Oh yeah, and my collection of original oil paintings that I was depending on as a retirement investment was lost too..."