Electrical fire forces 1,600-member church to relocate to Harding campus
The short occurred in a baptistery heater shortly after 11 p.m. Jan. 19 in the original part of the 62-year-old building, Whitlock said. He noted that the heater had been replaced in recent years.
“We’re either going to have to replace our baptistery or change our doctrine,” the minister joked.
Flames were contained mostly to a small area with a lot of plaster and concrete, Whitlock said. However, the entire building — including classrooms — sustained extensive smoke damage.
Several hundred gallons of water spilled out of the baptistery, which probably helped cool the blaze, he said.
Students who noticed smoke coming from the building notified the fire department about the same time as the church’s smoke alarm alerted authorities.
The church may be able to resume using its classrooms within a few weeks, but the congregation will worship in Benson Auditorium — on the Harding University campus across the street — for up to three months, Whitlock said.
“We’re blessed that we have Harding University and the big Benson Auditorium nearby,” he said.
Damages are insured, but church leaders had no estimate at press time on what it would cost to make repairs.