UPDATE @ 10:18 a.m.:
Fire officials believe the fire at Bethel AME Church was caused by an electrical issue and not in the kitchen as initially thought.
“The investigation is on-going, but it is believed to be electrical in nature likely originating on the second floor sanctuary area, not in the kitchen area as first believed,” the city said in a prepared statement. “Extensive damage was sustained to the interior and contents of the church.”
No injuries were reported and the building has been turned back over to church officials this morning.
UPDATE @ 7:10 a.m: Bethel AME Church was planning to have a holiday Christmas program before a fire heavily damaged the church early Wednesday morning.
Crews were dispatched to the 100 block of N. Cherry Street around 3:30 a.m. after a Lebanon police officer noticed the church’s second floor had visible flames and smoke.
Officials believe the fire started the night before on the first floor of the church in the kitchen and burned to the second floor where the sanctuary is located.
The church typically hosts free meals on Tuesday that they serve to those in the community, according to one member.
Even under the circumstances of the fire, Renee Forrester, a member of the church, says the congregation of about 25 members will overcome it.
“We’ll come back from it. We have a strong congregation. We’re small, but we do a lot.”, said Forrester.
Mutual aide from the likes of Hamilton Twp. South Lebanon Fire, Clearcreek Twp., and Turtlecreek Twp. were used to put the fire out.
Crews continue to investigate the incident.
UPDATE @5:20 a.m.
Crews continue to fight a blaze at the Bethel AME Church in Lebanon.
A member of the church said the fire started in the kitchen. She said the church hosted a free meal to the community Tuesday night.
We are working to gather additional details.
Units are responding to a fully involved structure fire at Bethel AME Church in Lebanon.
The incident occurred early Wednesday morning in the 100 block of N. Cherry Street around 3:45 a.m, per initial reports.
Flames and smoke are reportedly showing.
We have a crew on the way to the scene and will update this story with additional details.
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