2-alarm Houston Heights church fire ruled accidental or electrical

HOUSTON - An investigation is underway after a two-alarm fire tore through a church in the Heights.

Fire officials say the fire broke out at around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Heights Presbyterian Church on W. 18th Street near Rutland.

The Houston Fire Department says firefighters arrived to find heavy fire and smoke inside the landmark church. About 40 HFD units were dispatched to the scene.

Sky 2 aerials showed flames shooting through the roof of the church.

Firefighters contained the fire at around 1:20 p.m and are working to put out hot spots. The fire was deemed under control by 1:45 p.m.

HFD spokesperson Ruy Lozano says the church has fire walls that helped to stop the flames from spreading.

The area that caught fire houses classrooms and a karate studio.

"We're a very small church. We have 30, 40 active members. This is heartbreaking," said church member Kerry Meyers.

No one was inside at the time and no injuries were reported.

Some church members think the fire is suspicious, telling Local 2 they saw a strange man in the area, then the church alarm went off and later a fire broke out.

"It's devastating. I've been a member here since I was 14. I got married here in 1965," said church volunteer Linda Grabel. "My daughters have been married here. My kids, great grandkids baptized here; it's devastating."

The pastor of a second congregation, Beacon Light Outreach Ministry, that also uses the building tells Local 2 there was a break-in at the church on Saturday. They noticed the next day that items were missing.

We're told the church is more than 100 years old.

Many church members are turning to prayer to help them cope.

"Jesus house got burnt and he knows what happened. And if anybody is behind it, may God deal with that person," said Maribel Gomez.

And they say they'll make it through.

"Whether we worship in the main sanctuary, the chapel or the kitchen, nobody is gonna stop our praise...nobody," said Debra Lewis.

HFD arson investigators ruled Thursday that the cause of the fire was accidental/electrical and that it started in the attic.

"Even though this is a big deal for the community, it's routine for our firefighters and I have complete confidence they will do everything right," said HFD Chief Terry Garrison.

The fire comes just 24 hours after a five-alarm blaze destroyed an apartment building under construction in the Montrose area.

Fortunately no one was hurt in that fire, thanks to a daring and dramatic rescue of a construction worker by the Houston Fire Department.

Photos: Church fire in the Houston Heights

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