SAN ANTONIO -- The historic Childress Memorial Church of God in Christ caught fire late Friday night, and by the early hours of Saturday morning, the entire building was engulfed.
A picture taken at the scene shortly after midnight showed flames leaping into the air from the structure, which is located at the corner of North Pine and Hays streets on the city's east side.
As of 7:45 a.m., the church was charred to the core. A single fire engine was still pumping water onto hot spots throughout the church as Bishop Samuel Iglehart got his first look at the destruction.
"I'm completely overwhelmed," he told KENS 5's Marvin Hurst. "I mean I can't even visualize when I took over this church over 17 years ago. My father had been the pastor. And his picture, they say, is still up. And I thank God for that."
At least two dozen San Antonio Fire Department units were called to the church early Saturday morning as nearby residents and spectators who tracked down the leaping flames from afar took videos on their cell phones.
"We was coming home and we could see the fire way one the north side of town," said Kenneth Mathais. "That's part of east-side history, gone."
Arson investigators were called to the church on Saturday morning. They were not immediately sure how the blaze started but Iglehart said it may have been intentionally set.
"I'm very sorry that they're suspecting arson and, I don't know, but I hope whoever did this one is going to be caught," he said.
Iglehart said the congregation is strong, and that they are already talking about bringing utility trailers to the church until they find a nearby building in which to host the church's programs and worship services.
No injuries were reported.
Fire investigators said it was still too early to determine whether or not the fire was intentionally set. The ATF has also been called to help in the investigation.
San Antonio firefighters announced on Wednesday they are investigating six arsons on the city's east side in recent weeks. Anyone with more information about the fires is urged to contact the fire hotline at (210) 227-FIRE.