An electrical short in the basement likely caused this morning's fire that destroyed the old Lundy Chapel Baptist Church.
Pastor Anthony Corbett said a church member who lives next to the church phoned at about 3:15 a.m. today to tell him the church was on fire.
When firefighters arrived, flames were shooting out of the roof and the steeple was ablaze, said Capt. Tom Musselwhite, an arson investigator for the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department.
Due to extensive damage to the flooring near the left front corner of the building, Musselwhite's preliminary investigation indicates the fire likely started with an electrical short in or around a chest freezer or air conditioner.
What remains of the left side wall of the two-story brick building built in 1963 was showing signs of breaking down, which makes examining the debris risky, Musselwhite said.
"These are jumbo bricks, they're much bigger than a standard brick and very dangerous," Musselwhite said.
Corbett said the old sanctuary has been used as an education building after the new building was dedicated in 2001.
Friday or Saturday was the last time someone was using the building, he said.
The father of Otis Redding Jr. served as pastor of the church in that building for a time during the 1960s. The famed singer is said to have purchased the steeple that was destroyed in this morning's fire, Corbett said.
Youngsters reporting for summer camp today were funneled directly into the new building for breakfast as fire recruits were being briefed in the parking lot. Church members fed sausage biscuits to the weary firefighters who had battled the blaze.
Corbett said he believes the building is a total loss and the congregation lost their library and other items stored in that building.
"Our concern now is more so for our seniors some who actually helped lay the brick, just help build the building," Corbett said. "That's kind of devastating, kind of heartbreaking." Corbett said it's too early to tell whether they will build a replacement education building.
The Bibb County Sheriff's Office is also investigating the fire.
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