Flames consume former church building on Houston’s southside

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by Andrew Horansky / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 9:19 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 2 at 1:53 PM

HOUSTON -- It was a dramatic scene in southeast Houston on Thursday morning, as a massive fire burned out of control.

It broke out inside an abandoned building near Allegheny Street and Dixie Drive around 5:40 a.m. High winds only fueled it.

Residents say the building once served as apartments and then later as a church.

Although much of it was reduced to ash, many people in the community are focused on what was saved.

The building sat next to a strip center that housed three businesses. The owners of a convenience store, barber shop and tattoo parlor all feared they would lose everything.

The fast work of firefighters kept that from happening.

“They’ve done good,” said Gary Jedkins, barber. “I’m happy. I thank the Lord for it.”

“I commend them all,” said Michael Busby of Kash’s Tattoo Studio. “Best fire department in the world.”

By attacking the fire from above with powerful hoses, firefighters gained the upper hand. Arson units are now investigating the cause.

Many people say the building was abandoned for years and often frequented by the homeless. Some business owners said they even complained.

“I just called the City of Houston to check up on it like two weeks ago and told them about, you know, boarding up that building,” Michael Busby said.

He said worried for a long time about a problem at the building. He was just grateful that no one was hurt.

Nearby resident and community leader Tomarow Bell woke up to the sound of the sirens.

“It was a well-attended church, but they moved on because of growth,” said Bell. “As far as we know in the community, it was an empty building. I’ve seen homeless people in the area, but on a night like tonight it wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to seek shelter in the building knowing it was unoccupied.”

Gusty winds topping 35 mph made battling the fire difficult.

Arson investigators said the building did not have electricity service. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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