Fire collapses church roof into sanctuary

The destructive fire that broke out inside Walhalla Presbyterian Church at mid-morning collapsed the roof into the church sanctuary, but everyone inside the 600 E. Main Street church got out safely. Church organist Bill Weeks was in the church practicing for tomorrow morning’s service, discovered the fire, and tried to douse it with an extinguisher, which apparently failed to operate. Black smoke could be seen as far south as Halfway Branch and, from in front of Main Street, flames were visible at the top of the two-story brick church. Charlie King, Oconee Fire Chief, said the origin of the fire appears to have been the church attic. The process of stopping the fire and making the scene safe is likely to take hours. According to King, the process to determine why the fire started is delayed until the church is safe for fire fighters to enter. In the meantime, law enforcement has diverted traffic off E. Main. Walhalla Presbyterian is one of the city’s historic places of worship and, at the scene one of its members, State Sen. Thomas Alexander, was near tears recalling what the church has meant to him, his family, and his community. It was four summers ago that the church across the street, St. Luke United Methodist, burned to the ground due to the hands of an arsonist. That church has since been rebuilt.  96.3/WGOG note:  Contract obligations prevent the station from making live reports during the broadcast of the Furman game with Presbyterian.  We’ll continue to update the story on this website.  Seneca’s WSNW is providing an account of this morning’s fire.