GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A late morning house fire Monday near downtown Gulfport caused some anxious moments for the pastor of a nearby church. The fire destroyed a vacant home.
The home, which burned to the ground, is owned by the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, which is located next door.
The pastor of that church saw the thick smoke from a distance, and initially feared the worst.
"About 9:20, we got a 911 call for a structure on fire," said Gulfport Deputy Fire Chief Hank Levins.
Flames filled the vacant house when Gulfport firefighters arrived.
The home, which was in disrepair, is owned by the nearby Progressive Missionary Baptist Church.
The pastor of that church was taking his mother to an appointment when he saw the smoke plume.
"I look in the direction of the church, and I see a big cloud of smoke. I immediately thought the worst, that our church facilities were on fire," said the Rev. Ken Braxton.
The church purchased the vacant home and had plans for the property. Several church members watched as firefighters put out the hot spots.
"We were just passing by and saw the smoke, and when we came, the neighbors let us know the house was on fire. This is part of our church property," said Edna Lyons.
One concern of firefighters was the structures nearby, including the church.
"With the wind blowing, we had a little bit of embers landing on the church, and the fence itself caught fire, but we were able to knock it out real quick," said Levins.
Braxton said plans were underway to tear down the house, though he never expected a fire would do the demolition work.
"Had no stable structure or foundation. So, the trustees' ministry, along with myself, was trying to figure out how we were going to demolish and tear this structure down," said Braxton.
Though the formal investigation continues into what sparked the blaze, early evidence points to someone cooking. Fire crews found a scorched pot and pieces of charcoal inside.