MISSION, Kan. — Investigators report the fire at a Johnson County church on Thursday evening was an accident.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms inquiry into the fire at the First Baptist Church of Mission was accidental. The church’s pastor said he’s thankful no one was injured.
However, a portion of the church campus, which dates back to 1927, is believed to be a total loss. The church’s sanctuary will be unusable for some time to come as well due to smoke damage.
Firefighters scurried to battle the blaze on Thursday evening as smoke billowed from the attic of the church’s former Sunday school building. Larry Land, the church’s treasurer, said that building is vacant, and hadn’t been used for classes in years. Land said he was two doors down in the church’s sanctuary when he heard fire engines in the street.
“It became obvious it was going to be a pretty big deal,” Land said. “I saw what was happening, and it was hard to look at.”
The ATF finished a quick investigation on Friday, ruling the fire was an accident. The ATF shared photos on social media, showing heavy smoke damage to much of the building, and fire damage to the area where the fire broke out.
John Ham, an ATF spokesperson, said his agency is required by Congressional order to investigate any fire that happens in a place of worship. The church’s main sanctuary was built in 1959. It won’t be available for worship services this weekend.
Bill Thomas, a neighbor who lives across the street, said he was preparing dinner when fire trucks began arriving.
“(There was) smoke coming out that front part right there at the peak of the roof. It looked kind of small at first — nothing too big at first, but you don’t want smoke coming out of a building,” Thomas said.
Church leaders told FOX4 News other churches have reached out, expressing their support and compassion during this challenging time. Land said church administrators have even contacted city leaders, asking if any municipal space might be available for Sunday services.
“God says he’s there to be with us to walk through bad times,” Land said. “It’s going to be a test of faith, but then again, God is faithful.”