CLEARFIELD, Utah - A fire in Clearfield on Tuesday tore through a historic church, destroying nearly all of it. While no one was injured, those who belong to the Clearfield Community Church mourned the loss of a structure that had been in the community for decades.
"To see this happen, it's a shame," said congregation member Beth Kasey, who was married at the church in 1969.
"Practically every city you go into, whether it's Kaysville, Clearfield or Clinton or Roy, everybody knows the name Clearfield Community Church," she said.
Around 2:30 p.m., multiple fire departments responded to the church, located on 200 South 500 East, after a member noticed smoke billowing out of the basement. Thirteen people were safely evacuated, including a classroom of students inside at the time.
"Oh, we're praising God for the fact that all were well, and the church is going to go right on," said Pastor John Parsley, who has been heading the congregation for about four years.
He and others stood across the street from the building for hours as it burned, never allowing their strength and faith to waver.
He said, "Our meeting place is in bad shape, but our congregation is fine."
The flames engulfed much of the building so quickly, fire fighters were forced to extinguish it only from the outside. Just before 6:00 p.m., crews backed away and decided to allow the roof to cave in on one portion of the building, in an effort to get water closer to the source of the blaze.
"This is just a sad loss for the Clearfield Community Church, as well as all Clearfield community members," said Capt. Chris Tremea of the North Davis Fire District.
Despite the loss, church members are finding strength in numbers, and have already planned to hold their weekly meeting in the parking lot Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m. Tremea said an LDS church, as well as Clearfield city officials, have offered facility space for the church to use for Sunday service.
"The tears went away quickly because it's only a building. It's just a building. The faith and the membership and the people are the church, and we're still here," said Kasey.
Officials were unable to determine a cause as of Tuesday evening, as fire crews remained at the scene extinguishing "hot spots" inside the building. Tremea expected staff to be stationed outside for much of the night as a precaution.