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Official says finding cause of Falkville fire may take a month

By Ronnie Thomas 340-2438

FALKVILLE — Fire Chief Eric Sawyer said Wednesday that officials might take as long as a month to determine what caused the fire that destroyed Falkville First United Methodist Church on Monday.

He also said that as far as he knew, no one has uncovered anything that points to arson.

Sawyer said that when he and volunteer firefighter Phillip Free arrived, flames were shooting out the roof's eastern side, where the sanctuary is located.

"The state fire marshal's office and Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agents finished up their field work Tuesday afternoon, sifting through the debris and collecting any evidence," Sawyer said. "We assisted them."

Sawyer said Morgan County District 3 Commissioner Kevin Murphy supplied a track hoe and operator to knock down the church's rock wall for the investigation.

"Only the north end wall and a portion on the west end are standing," Sawyer said.

Sawyer said an insurance investigator visited the site Wednesday.

"Whomever the insurance company uses will complete the dismantling of the building and clear the site," he said.

Sawyer said firefighters arrived at the scene about noon Monday and the last of them, including himself, left at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

"I went home and took a shower about 1:30 a.m. and came right back," he said. "At another point, I slept a couple of hours in the command trailer and that was about it. Other firefighters traded out shifts."

Sawyer said that while fighting the fire, arson did come to mind.

The chief said someone called 911 about 10:30 Tuesday night to report that the fire had rekindled.

"It actually was only a smolder with a few light flames in it," he said. "A couple of firefighters returned and sprayed some water on it."

Meanwhile, Vance Vest, chairman of the church's administrative board, said members scheduled a meeting Wednesday night to decide where to meet Sunday.

"We have several options," he said. "Also, we have options on where we might want to meet on a more long-range basis, but I wouldn't want to speculate now. We might hold our meeting Sunday at the site, if the weather permits."

Vest said the church definitely will rebuild at the East Main Street location.

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