The calm of a peaceful Sunday evening was broken by the sound of sirens as the Montevideo Fire Department was dispatched to the scene of a church fire at the corner of North 7th St. and Grove Ave. When firefighters arrived at the Montevideo Baptist Church, smoke was pouring out the roof and flames could be seen.

The calm of a peaceful Sunday evening was broken by the sound of sirens as the Montevideo Fire Department was dispatched to the scene of a church fire at the corner of North 7th St. and Grove Ave. When firefighters arrived at the Montevideo Baptist Church, smoke was pouring out the roof and flames could be seen.

At approximately 9:30 p.m., a citizen called 911 to report smoke coming from the building. Also responding at the scene were the Montevideo Police Department and a CCM Health ambulance crew. No one was in the building when the fire broke out.

The blaze proved to be a difficult one to put out. Upon arrival, firefighters could not direct water at the flames due to the fire’s location in the upper part of the building. Firefighters were able to take control once the flames burned through the roof. Monte­video Fire Chief Mitchell Stueck said: “It took two hours to get the fire under control. We were pretty well wrapped up by 11:30.”

According to Stueck, the cause of the fire was officially stated to be undetermined. “The fire was inspected by the State Fire Marshall’s office, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.”

Stueck explained that since this was a church fire, the BATF was required to take part in the investigation.

He also said that the worship area of the church had two dropped ceilings which had been installed over the years. As far as the Fire Marshall could tell, the fire began somewhere in or above the dropped ceilings.

Brent Winters is the pastor for the Montevideo Baptist Church. He said: “We moved here from Georgia in May of last year, and we held our first service last August 4. We’re a fairly new church, and on any given Sunday we have 15 to 25 members show up for services.”

Sunday evening, Winters received a call about the fire and hurried to the church. “Earlier in the day I had preached on how God is good even during the hard times. When I came to the church and saw the flames coming through the roof I said, Lord, you’re gonna’ make me practice what I preached today, aren’t you?” In spite of the sting of the recent tragedy, Winters laughed as he said that.

According to Winters, the church is a total loss. “The building has been condemned. It’s going to have to be demolished. We’re trying to figure out if we’re going to build another church here or relocate. We’re praying about that, and considering the options we have,” he said.

Winters expressed his thanks for the firefighters who worked so hard to extinguish the blaze. “We were very impressed with the fire department and what they did. They fought tirelessly to keep the fire contained and put it out. The fire gave them a fight, that’s for sure. It seemed like every time they sprayed one spot, the fire would start up somewhere else. It didn’t want to go out!” he said.

Since the fire, members of the Montevideo community have responded to their neighbors in need. Winters said: “We’ve had some people be very gracious to us, and some churches have reached out to us. One church brought us supper Monday night, and we’ve had many people give their condolences. The community has been very good to us, and we are very appreciative of that.”

Like other churches in the community, Montevi­deo Baptist Church had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. Winters said: “I’ve been preaching from the front steps of the church to people driving up. We got a sound system, a microphone, and a keyboard just for those services, and of course, we lost those to the fire. As it is, the Lord has already been working and we’ve had a church donate a sound system, microphones, and a keyboard to us, so we are planning on having services this week.

If anything, Winters and his congregation are boldly looking to the future by continuing to serve the Montevideo community. “We’re going to be right back at it doing what the Lord wants us to do and telling people about Jesus. So the Lord’s already blessed us, and a lot of people are pitching in and helping. We are so thankful to the firefighters, the police officers, and everybody that was involved,” he said.

The tragedy has not dampened Winters’ enthusiasm for doing God’s work. He said: “On Monday, the shock of it all kind of hit. We moved here from Georgia, and now pretty much everything is gone. Now we’re in rebuild, do what we have to do mode. Our resolve to continue serving the Lord has been strengthened. We’ll take it one step at a time and keep moving forward. That’s all we can do.”