Pascagoula's First Protestant Church Burns Down - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/19/03

Pascagoula's First Protestant Church Burns Down

Laura Byrd wasn't home when the historic site next door caught on fire.

"I drove home at about 8:15 last night and saw the crime tape and all the water and knew something was not right."

Only about 10 feet separates her house from the church and she says if the fire would have spread to the back of the building, it could have reached her home. She credits guardian angels like Billy Perkins for responding quickly to the suspicious smoke in the neighborhood.

"I couldn't see the source of the smoke. I was in my socks I ran to the end of my street where I could see around the next house and saw the orange glow and immediately knew we had a major problem," said Billy Perkins.

A problem, Perkins knew could get much worse. He gathered some friends together and they made sure no one was in the church or the neighboring homes and then they took action.

"We were looking for water hoses anything we could find to kinda help the neighbors house."

"They came down and wet my roof down and wet my house down. And because of that, the embers that were going over there did not catch my house on fire," said Laura Byrd.

But for the family that owns the church, it's a devastating site.

"It's been abandoned for quite some time, but it's just a shame to see it in this shape," said Hank Torjusen, son of the building co-owner.

The church was built in the 1890s and was host to sunday school classes, the Pascagoula Women's Club, church revivals and art shows. Torjusen and neighbors say losing the building is like losing a part of themselves.

"Terrible feeling. Big loss to the neighborhood, big loss to the family."

"For it to be gone, it's a loss to us all. And it's a personal loss to me. I just hate it," said Laura Byrd.

Torjusen says he's afraid that the only thing he can do for the building is tear it down.

Pascagoula fire officials are still investigating the cause of the fire. The Torjusen family said the building was abandoned and electricity was not connected.

By Jennifer Holliman

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