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Historic Sedalia church gutted by fire

A fire has destroyed a historic church in downtown Sedalia. ABC 17 News talked to a police officer who saw the fire at the First United Methodist Church around 9:45 Wednesday night. The church is on the corner of Fourth Street and Osage Avenue, about a block west of the Pettis County courthouse.

When firefighters arrived, they saw flames coming from some upstairs windows, and within minutes, the roof started to collapse.

Parts of the exterior walls started collapsing as well, knocking down some nearby power lines. That knocked out power to the area around the church.

It took crews about 90 minutes to get the fire under control. Officials on scene tell ABC 17 News because of the roof collapse, the fire will likely continue to smolder into the later hours of Thursday.

Deputy fire chief Greg Harrell says the building is very unstable, and what is left will likely be torn down. Harrell, a member of this church, says the limestone used for the building absorbed much of the water used against the fire, adding to the building’s instability.

Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms took over the investigation Thursday morning. Because a church caught fire, the ATF must be involved to determine whether a hate crime was committed.

No one was at the church at the time – a church group had left the building earlier in the evening. One firefighter was injured, possibly with a broken ankle.

The church was built in the late 19th century and has been a historical landmark in Sedalia.

Throughout the day, many of the church parishioners and Sedalia residents came by to see the destruction. Many said even though they didn’t attend church there, the church was fixture in the community, being home to boy scout meetings and holding community events in the summer.

The associate pastor for the church, Mike Cassidy told ABC 17 News even though First United has two campuses to hold services, the historic downtown location was the heart of the congregation. Cassidy and a fellow parishioner were looking at the burned down church, discussing the “beautiful” stain glassed windows that used to be there. Cassidy also talked watching the flames coming out of an upstairs window of the church, thinking about the all historical documents and pictures that were housed in that room.

The remaining exterior walls will be torn down Friday morning according to the fire department and the associate pastor. Fire crews will be on standby when the walls are torn down.

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