ODESSA, Mo. -- Investigators are trying to determine what sparked an early Thursday morning fire that destroyed Woods Chapel United Methodist Church south of Odessa.
The 135-year-old church burned to the ground. A neighbor and church member saw the church already in a ball of flames before 2 a.m.
There was nothing firefighters from the Johnson County Fire District and Odessa hauling in water could do.
It’s a big loss for the community, including the Pemberton family.
Donald Pemberton’s great grandfather’s name was on the church, he’s buried in the cemetery next to it. The 81-year-old was married to his wife Peggy there 61 years ago, as were his daughters.
“The Pembertons have been involved in Woods Chapel for a long time and it kind of makes you sick when you look at the smoke coming out of the basement," Donald Pemberton said.
That smoke continued to billow from the church’s ashes hours after firefighters left. Church elders met Thursday night to start talking about the church's future.
"I'm sure there would be no way we could rebuild what was there in our day," Pemberton said.
ATF, The Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office are all involved in the investigation. They haven't ruled out lightning, but early indications are the storms didn't hit that area until after the fire started.