PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) – Clouds of smoke filled Highway 90 in Pascagoula, and so did dozens of onlookers as they watched the Greater Antioch Missionary Baptist Church burn Thursday afternoon.
"When you see a house of God that represents the people of God undergo something of this kind of tragedy, it is just heartbreaking," Pascagoula resident Robbie Myrick said.
It was also heartbreaking for 300 plus members who attended the popular community church. Some of them stood in shock at the fire scene.
"It hurts because there is nothing you can do but stand here and watch it," church member Denise Moore said.
Church Secretary Claudia Hamilton said she had just left the building before the fire started.
"I was devastated our church was on fire," Hamilton said.
Fire Chief Robert O'Sullivan said his team got a 911 call about the fire Thursday afternoon. Within minutes of arriving on scene, the fire had spread throughout the sanctuary and it was hard for the firefighters to battle.
"It has been a stubborn fire, a major fire. We have all our units deployed," O'Sullivan said.
Firefighters said no one was injured in the fire, but they are almost certain the inside of the church is destroyed.
"Between the water damage, and the smoke and the heat damage, if is not a total loss it is close to it," O'Sullivan said.
Church members said this fire will not make them lose their faith. They are already determined to build back.
"With God on our side, we are going to have a bigger, better building," Claudia Hamilton said.
"God is good. He is going to take care of us and it is going to be okay," Moore said.
Chief O'Sullivan said he does not know what sparked the fire. He believes the fire started in the back of church near the kitchen and fellowship area.