Fire at 100-year-old church considered arson

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. - Investigators in Rockingham County said a fire at a 100-year-old church is being considered as arson.

No one was hurt, but a lot of memories are now lost forever.

It was too much for even a church to handle, and the harsh morning light made it worse.

Saturday night around 10:30 p.m., Gideon Grove United Methodist Church in Stokesdale caught on fire, and quickly, more manpower was called in.

More than 75 firefighters did what they could; Tyler McGee was one of them.

"It is hard to lose a church anytime of the year but especially so close to Christmas," said McGee.

His crew was inside the sanctuary and got out just in time.

"While we were in there, we started seeing a rollover of the fire, and then it just went black and the next thing you know, you saw the roof falling. As we tried to make our way out of there, was stuff falling on us. We barely made it out," said McGee.

No firefighters were seriously injured. They know the fire started towards the back of the church, but they do not know what caused it.

"When you have a church loss, you are affecting hundreds of families," said McGee.

The Stokesdale Church is more than 100 years old.

"I am 74, and I came to church here before I was born," said Mahalia McGee. "My daughter is the organist and choir director here. My grandchildren were christened here. This is our cross that we put flowers on at Easter time."

For her, it is a lot to take in.

"It is just hard to walk away. It is just so much a part of who I am," said Mahalia.

The massive fire torched the sanctuary, rows of pews are now in pieces, stained glass shattered, but the fire was not strong enough to steal their faith.