NEW MEETING PLACE. A sign welcomes the congregation of First Assembly of God Church to the Carter Day Center Sunday morning.
By Louie Graves
and Terrica Hendrix
A strong wind from the west was the villain in Friday’s catastrophic fire which leveled the sanctuary, classrooms, records and memorabilia of Nashville’s First Assembly of God Church.
Nashville Fire Marshal Jerry Harwell explained that the wind was able to whip through the shallow attic space over the pulpit, the area where the fire may have started. The attic space contained mostly wiring and ductwork.
“The wind just killed us,” the fire marshal said. “It pushed the flames through the attic and we couldn’t get ahead of it in order to stop it.”
Nashville firemen in protective gear went inside the sanctuary with heat-sensing equipment and determined that the blaze at that time was only overhead in the attic. It quickly spread, however, despite the efforts of the firemen.
The fire was reported at 8:33 a.m. Friday by a 9-1-1 call. Fire departments called included Nashville, Center Point, County Line and Yancey.
Ozan VFD members were also at the scene, as were Howard County Ambulance Service, police and the Nashville Public Works Department.
The fire raged through the sanctuary and quickly spread into wings of the main structure. The strong winds kept some of the acrid smoke low, and a thin veil was visible low to the ground as far away as South Main Street. The charred smell hung heavily in the air over parts of town.
The black smoke was also towering and was visible for miles away.
Nashville firemen finally left the scene just before 4 p.m. after the walls had collapsed. The remains of the church smoked throughout the weekend.
Ironically, in one of their recent drills, Nashville firemen wanted to practice what they would do if the fire was in a large heavily-wood structure.
The church was selected as the site for the firemen’s practice.
“We discussed and drilled on what we would do in case of a fire there, but we didn’t count on that strong wind,” the fire marshal said.
“I’ve shed a lot of tears the last 24 hours,” Pastor Terry Goff said on Saturday. “Not so much for the loss, but for the seeing just how strong my congregation has become, for the flooding of offers for prayer, words of encouragement, offers to help.
“I have never been so proud to be a member of the Assemblies of God, and to live in such a place as Nashville Ark.
“With all of you behind me, I feel that nothing is too hard. You all and God are pouring strength and hope into what many would see as tragedy.
“Thank you all. I will never forget.”