South Georgia church goes up in flames - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia church goes up in flames

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August 27, 2002

Dooly County - There's been a rash of church fires in Georgia. The latest fire happened at a small church in Dooly County. Tonight, the state fire marshal is warning congregations to be on the lookout for anything suspicious.

Ashes, burnt wood and memories are all that's left of St. Luke's Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Lilly, Georgia. Church member Lilie Kate Cotton cries, "My church is my best friend. I loved it just that much."

Cotton joined 53 years ago when she was only four. She says, "We have six members and other people from different churches be with us."

St. Luke's was a century old church, now completely destroyed by fire. Fire investigators are looking into arson, but neighbors think this air conditioner started the blaze. Paula Coleman explains, "It was a bunch of fire behind the air conditioner. The top of the church was already smoking."

Coleman lives next to St. Luke's. The church fire was so intense...the heat melted the side of Coleman's trailer. She considers herself lucky. She says, "It don't take a trailer but seven minutes to burn up. Mine could have burn up too."

Church members don't know what they plan to do for worship. Cotton says, "But, I know GOD will take care of us." Others will look past the rubble for support. Coleman explains, "It's small. We got no other choice than to stick together."

So far, investigators have not found any evidence of arson.

The First Congregational Holiness Church in Monroe, Georgia, and the Tilley Baptist Church in Dial, Georgia also caught fire. So far, the Tilley Baptist Church was the only one ruled arson.

Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine urges congregations to watch out for suspicious people, change locks periodically and install a burglary and fire alarm.

posted at 6:20 PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com