By Ashley Nix
JASPER, AL (WBRC) - Philadelphia Baptist Church in Jasper was damaged by fire Wednesday night in the midst of severe weather rolling through the state.
Church members said they heard a loud clap of thunder, saw lightning and then smelled smoke. Pastor Paul Mason said fire was very visible.
"It was coming out the front, you can see under the eve, the fire was pouring out of there about 10-12 feet," Mason said. "By the time they got up there there was already smoke billowing out."
One day later, Mason was thinking about how much worse it could have been. Eight people were inside practicing for an Easter drama service when the fire started.
"I would imagine the structure would not have survived," Mason said. "If they weren't here it would've gotten to the roof and those boards would've went pretty quickly."
Member Robin Roberts said he feels it's a blessing someone was there when the fire started.
"Any other night nobody would've been in the church," Roberts said. "Given a fire like this, it would've been down to the ground in just minutes."
Investigators believe the blaze started in the air conditioning unit on the balcony of the church. Charred and melted remnants of a fire, heat and smoke are now left behind.
Even through it all, Pastor Mason knows the building isn't what matters in the end.
"Philadelphia Baptist is not a building," Mason said. "It's a group of people who have been called by the Lord to serve him here, and we are still alive and thriving for the Lord."
Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.