Dec. 10, 2013 - A Tuesday morning fire destroyed a second Morrow County Church within a twelve-day period.
Multiple crews from Morrow and Delaware Counties battled the blaze that destroyed the Gethsemane Baptist Church, located at 4000 County Road 217, just off of State Route 61, Marengo. The structure was engulfed in smoke when firefighters arrived. No one was in the building at the time.
A passerby noticed the smoke and called in the fire at 10:51 a.m. A witness stated that a member of the church had just driven by 20 minutes prior to the call and did not see any indications of fire.
According to Big Walnut Joint Fire District Chief Rodger Norcross, smoke was emanating from the basement of the church when they first arrived on the scene.
The crew had to withdraw when the heat became too intense.
Smoke could be seen as far away as Interstate 71 and visibility on State Route 61 was completely obscured. State Route 61 was closed in both directions for several hours while fire crews brought the blaze under control.
Water had to be shuttled to the scene as there were no fire hydrants in the area.
“Water is always an issue in rural areas,” said Chief Norcross.
The fire is under investigation by the State Fire Marshall; witnesses at the scene report that there were no tracks in the snow around the church upon their arrival.
Pastor Donnie Hale reported that the baseboard heat in the church was set on low. When asked for a quote, the pastor indicted that he would need some time. He did indicate that the church was fully insured.
Bryan Miller, an elder of the church, watched in grief.
“I was married in this church, I was baptized in this church; it is horrible to watch,” he said, adding that the church had recently merged with another congregation.
Multiple units from Morrow and Delaware Counties responded, including Big Walnut Joint Fire District, Cardington Fire Department, Porter-Kingston Fire District, Ashley Fire Department, Elm Valley Joint Fire District, Mount Gilead Fire Department, B.S.T.G Fire Department, and Tri-Township Fire department.
Also responding to the scene were units from the Morrow County Sheriff’s department, Morrow County E.M.S. and Delaware E.M.S.