Church members clean up after fire

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 13, 2001

FERRIDAY, La. – &uot;These are just things,&uot; John Crist said Saturday, surveying the fire damage to his church and house. &uot;You can take this but you can’t take memories,&uot; said Crist, the pastor of Shady Acres Pentecostal Church just outside of Ferriday. The Crist family and their small congregation of 25 lost nearly everything Friday when a fire gutted the parsonage and church.

&uot;(It) still hasn’t set in,&uot; said Summer Crist, the pastor’s daughter-in-law and a member of the church. &uot;I cannot believe it.&uot;

The church members were in the middle of a service Friday night when a neighbor knocked on the door to say the nearby trailer was on fire.

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By the time firefighters arrived, the trailer where Crist lived with his family was already engulfed in flames, said Concordia Parish Fire Chief Nolen Cothren.

The fire quickly spread to the nearby church as members ran inside to retrieve sound equipment, leaving doors open to fuel the fire.

&uot;It just made it worse,&uot; Cothren said. &uot;If they had closed the doors, it might have slowed it down some.&uot;

Finally an officer threatened people with arrest to keep them from going back inside, Cothren said.

Crist’s son, Jason, attempted to fight the fire with a garden hose. He also tried to retrieve items from inside the buildings, including his parents’ trailer.

Jason said he doused himself with water and put a blanket over his face, but he only got three steps inside before he had to turn around. &uot;The smoke was so bad,&uot; he said &uot;I couldn’t breathe.&uot;

No one was injured, and firefighters are glad things did not turn out worse.

Cothren said when he arrived at the scene, young people were going back into the church to retrieve things even as a section of the roof was collapsing.

&uot;It scared me to death,&uot; he said &uot;Thank God nobody got hurt.&uot;

Cothren does not think people should have been trying to retrieve items from inside the church. &uot;People die doing it every day,&uot; he said.

Officials believe the cause of the fire was electrical. Recently, Crist’s wife, Janice, had complained of seeing fire coming out of a socket in the trailer, Cothren said.

The church has no insurance, but members are hoping for a miracle so they can rebuild.