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Calvary Baptist Church Damaged In Early Morning Fire

Carol Cavazos for CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COM
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OAK CLIFF (CBS 11 NEWS) – It was a spark that started the fire at Calvary Baptist church of Oak Cliff about early this morning.

Not that there’s ever a good time for a fire to happen, but the congregation had just started a campaign to restore the church to its former historical glory. The building housing its main sanctuary was built in 1924.

Jim Porterfield is their worship leader.

“I got the call a little before 4 o’clock this morning from a neighbor who had seen the commotion and called me and said, ‘Your church is on fire.’ Of course, I rushed up here,” Porterfield said.

Porterfield thinks the fire started in the basement with a spark from a workman’s cutting tool. They were trying to remove a chilling tank.

“Evidently, a spark got away and hid itself under some woodwork someplace and smoldered for about 12 hours before finally bursting into flames,” he said.

“The fire evidently started under the showers,” he said pointing to the burn marks.

The fire was confined to the basement. It was the smoke that got away.

Parishioners Joe and Kara Rodriguez smelled it as soon as they walked in.  “The smell I smelled was metal and wood burning is what I smelled,” Joe said.  “It’s overwhelming in different areas of the church. You can hardly breathe. It’s hard,” he added.

And the soot?  It was everywhere.

Jim Porterfield swiped his hand over the baby grand piano in the sanctuary and came up with black soot on his hand.

The nursery, closest to the fire, was hit the hardest.

It couldn’t have happened at a worse time because the church had just begun a campaign to restore the main building to its former architectural glory.

Remodeling during the 1960’s had covered up most of the original decor.

“It had beautiful columns on the front and very nice hammered glass windows and tin ceilings in every room,” Jim Porterfield said.

As a way to get the restoration campaign going, the church pulled down a portion of the 1960’s facade revealing a beautiful 1924 balustrade otherwise known as a cement balcony with columns.

Joe Rodriguez isn’t worried about this latest setback. He sees it all as a life parallel.  “God’s in the business of restoring and this is an example of things that happen in our lives that He’s looking to restore,” he said.

“You know, God is amazing. He can take a huge disaster and turn it into a huge blessing. And we believe that will happen,” Jim Porterfield said.

Back in the ’60’s the church had about 1,000 people attending services. Porterfield said those were the days when people also went to church to socialize.

Now, the congregation at Calvary Oak Cliff average about 120 to 150 people.

The church is hoping to change that too. Right now, they just need to clean up the mess from the fire. They have insurance. They hope it covers everything.

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