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Firefighters stop flames before they reach church
BEAUMONT - by Lauren Huet
Members of a Beaumont church didn't let a fire Tuesday shake their faith.
George Benton drove his van to Grace and Truth Gospel Tabernacle off of North Major Drive near Highway 105. He came to repair the church's organ. Now his van is destroyed from a fire firefighters say probably started because of a mechanical problem in the van.
Flames turned an iPad into an almost unrecognizable mass of plastic and metal. The iPad was in Benton's van, along with his equipment.
"Well my business is on the road, I work out of that van, I almost live out of that van," said Benton. "All my tools and parts are in the van. Luckily, my main tools are in the church, because I had brought them in, but all my parts and stuff like that are in [the van]."
Benton discovered the fire when he went to retrieve parts for the organ from his van.
"After about ten or fifteen minutes I wanted to get some parts, and when I came out of the door, the whole underneath of the portico was engulfed in smoke, and as I focused I could see that the fire was coming out of my van," said Benton. "It looked like it was coming out of the cab."
Lee Neffendorf, a trustee at the church, followed Benton outside.
"And I went out to make sure the door was open so he could get back in," said Neffendorf. "When I opened the back door I saw flames in his truck, and my first impression was call 911, which I did."
The fire spread from the van to Neffendorf's SUV.
"I guess we've learned over the years that things happen that you take in stride," said Neffendorf. "No need to get too upset about things, because they're going to happen."
The flames spread from the two vehicles to the carport. Firefighters put out the fire within half an hour, before it reached the main building of the church.
"I feel very good about it that God watched over it and it could have been a lot worse," said Pastor Jack W. Bell. "But it didn't spread too much, didn't really get inside, maybe some smoke damage. So we're just looking forward to getting it back in shape and getting back to church."
"I just thank the Lord that, if I had stayed in for another half hour or so, it could have been horrible, this whole church would have burnt down," said Benton. "So, the fact that I decided to come out and get parts is what stopped it where it was. It could have been a lot worse."
Pastor Bell says he plans on having their usual Wednesday night service, and will definitely have their usual services on the weekend.
"We know all things work for good for those that love the Lord and serve His purpose," said Bell.