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Fire destroys church sanctuary in Mount Airy

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MOUNT AIRY, N.C. -- A large fire broke out at a church in Mount Airy on Sunday night, but nobody was inside at the time of the fire.

Authorities said the fire started in the old sanctuary at Bannertown Baptist Church on Westfield Rd at about 6 p.m.

A youth service was supposed to be held in the old sanctuary Sunday night, but church leaders say a youth pastor’s wife smelled the smoke and called authorities.

It took several hours to get the flames under control. Firefighters were able to stop the fire from spreading to the new sanctuary on the church campus.

“We were blessed that people were here, because if that fire had burned 10 more minutes before the fire department was called, then they probably wouldn't have saved the new church,” said Sam Holder, deacon at Bannertown Baptist. “It was a blessing we were here, but another blessing no one was hurt. I think it worked out the best it could.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but officials said no foul play is currently suspected.

Holder says the church may not be able to hold services in their new sanctuary for several weeks due to smoke damage. He says other churches have already offered their facilities to the congregation.

According to the church’s website, donations can be mailed to the Bannertown Baptist Church, Attn: BUILDING FUND, 1834 Westfield Rd, Mount Airy, NC 27030.