BRANDON, Fla. (FOX 13) - A fire broke out at a Brandon church just days before Easter.
The fellowship hall of New Testament Church of Brandon was badly damaged by the flames Thursday evening. Fire crews arrived just before 10 p.m. to find the building completely engulfed, with fire shooting through the roof.
The fire was knocked down within 25 minutes. However, in that time, the fire was able to gut the building. Flames took off the roof of the fellowship hall, blew out the windows, and scorched the interior. Firefighters were able to contain the blaze and keep it from spreading to the church itself right next door.
“I walked over and you just saw the whole building was engulfed in flames and the roof started collapsing,” witness Tiffany Norton recalled. "It’s just really heartbreaking to have something like this happen to this community.”
The building, which started as the main sanctuary for church members, had transformed over the years into a place for Sunday School and fellowship.
"We've had memorial services, baby dedications, weddings, baby showers, everything you can think of over 45 years of ministry," said Pastor Kevin Wells.
The loss for longtime attendee Barbara Devine is devastating. She stood by and watched Thursday as decades of history and memories were engulfed in mere minutes.
"I had so many mixed emotions. I was just in shock that it was going up," Devine said. "It's just very heartbreaking to see something go up like this that's been a stability in the community here."
However, despite the tragedy, the congregation's faith is not shaken. Pastor Wells said Easter Sunday celebrations will continue on as planned.
“Out of tragedy, we will find a triumph we will see beauty come out of ashes. We are just trusting the Lord. He is our rock,” said Pastor Kevin Wells. “We are just going to praise him in the midst of this adversity.”
No one was inside at the time of the fire. A firefighter on scene collapsed near his truck from an unrelated injury, and he was taken to a nearby hospital.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.