Propane torch started fire at historic church in Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- Fire investigators determined that a propane torch started a fire at the historic Monumental United Methodist Church in Olde Towne on January 3.

The church, located in the 400 block of Dinwiddie St., had heavy damage as a result of the fire.

Video recorded through the 13News Now Skyview Network showed the steeple of the church fully engulfed in flames at 11:20 a.m.

Acting Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Meyer said workers were using a torch to weatherproof the steeple when the flame came in contact with wood.

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"It's like slowly watching some of your past, your history go away," said business owner Cheryl Freeland. 

PHOTOS: Historic Monumental United Methodist Church on fire

The church posted on Facebook that the steeple and part of the roof had caught fire. It said staff members were safe and asked for people to pray for "our church family and community as we recover."

Church treasurer and lifetime member, Robert Scott, told 13News Now there was a silver lining. A century-old Bible survived the sanctuary damage. The same Bible also survived a devastating fire about 140 years ago, he said. 

"I think what it tells me is it's going to take a lot more than a fire to do us in," said Scott. 

 

 

Monumental United Methodist Church is on the National Register of Historic Places, and was built between 1874 and 1876 on the foundation of an earlier church that burned down in 1864.