Fire Chief Gary Chase said that both the kitchen and dining hall received extensive damage from the fire - which was pretty well burned out when the Fire Department arrived - and there was also smoke damage throughout the building.
A passer-by noticed the smoke and called the fire in, and fire officials said that if if had been an hour or two later that it was reported, the damage would have been "a whole lot worse."
St. Paul's Pastor Magrey deVega said that future activities at the church are still being discussed, but stated that it would be quite some time before the kitchen and dining hall will be usable. deVega said that his preference would be to continue to hold Sunday services in the church sanctuary, but there is some soot and smoke damage there, and they are waiting to hear from Service Master on how long it will take to have the sanctuary ready for services.
deVega said that the Cherokee school has graciously offered the use of the Washington High School Auditorium for this Sunday's service, but a final decision will be made by the Church Board. This Sunday's Sunday School classes have been canceled due to some soot in the classrooms.
He did not forsee the need to move the location of any upcoming weddings, though receptions will probably need to be held elsewhere. deVega said that Memorial Presbyterian Church has graciously offered the use of their kitchen and dining hall for wedding and funeral receptions, so this would be one option that will be available.
In an e-mail to his parishioners, Pastor deVega commented: "Do you want to know the thing I'm grateful for the most coming out of Sunday? It's the unbridled spirit of optimism and grit that so many of you have displayed over the past 24 hours. So many of you have called and stopped by, ready to work, itchy to clear out the debris, and ready to put the tragedy behind us. In due time, we'll get to work. The Trustees and Building Committee will meet very soon to craft a strategy for moving forward. And when we do, I know we'll all be in lock-step together, claiming God's promise to us in Isaiah 43: 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.' "
According to local Fire Department officials, the cause of the fire is still under investigation by the State Fire Marshal.
Eighteen Cherokee firefighters quickly responded to the alarm and the trucks were on the scene in mere minutes from the fire station, just three blocks away.