Fire Destroys British Adventist Headquarters
No physical injuries, but building destroyed
major fire at the headquarters office of the Seventh-day Adventist church in the United Kingdom and Ireland has gutted the building. The fire appears to have started during maintenance work on the roof on Sunday, November 16, 2008, and spread through the roof to engulf a major part of the building.
Fire services were called to the scene at approximately 2:10 PM local time, and ten fire engines battled the blaze throughout the afternoon and into the evening, with flames leaping as high as 20 feet into the air, according to media reports. Much of the main part of the building was destroyed. There were no casualties or injuries.
According to a report in the Watford Observer newspaper, the fire was a spectacular sight: “Smoke and flames were coming from all over the place. It was a huge fire. Half the building was missing when I arrived. Police and fire engines were everywhere,” Jo Hart, an eyewitness, told the publication.
The fire gutted the British Union headquarters.
Paul Day, who stopped to take pictures of the unfolding drama, told the Observer: “I heard a noise like thunder as part of the roof collapsed. It was terrible.”
Mrs. Francis Brooks works in the ABC Bookshop located at the far end of the building and was the only person inside at the time. She evacuated the building on hearing the fire alarm and was shocked to see smoke pouring out of the roof above the boardroom.
Staff at the office, based on Stanborough Park, Watford, will meet at the Stanborough Centre on Monday, November 17 to draw up contingency plans and ensure that the work and mission of the church can continue to move forward as smoothly as possible.
Don McFarlane, president of the Adventist Church in the UK and Ireland states "the fire at our church headquarters has surely affected operations. However, it is a comfort to know that the work of the church is not primarily done in an office building but by our many thousands of members through the UK and Ireland in towns, villages and cities where they live.
"We will salvage what we can from the ruins of the building and seek to have a replacement as soon as the attendant factors allow. The sorry state of this building, which for nearly 50 years has stood proudly on Stanborough Park reminds us that there is no real security in anything that is fashioned by the hand of men. Our security is in God and his plans for the human family."
Until the fire is fully out and the building declared safe it is impossible to ascertain how much material has been lost, but all staff have made a commitment restore a normal service as soon as possible.
The office will be closed until further notice. Phone and email are currently not working. Once service is restored we will post information to this website.
In the meantime the South England Conference office will take telephone messages on behalf of the BUC on +44 1923 232728. No “adventist.org.uk” email addresses currently work. An emergency email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, has been set up until service can be restored.
Approximately 27,000 Seventh-day Adventists are members in the British Union, worshipping weekly in 241 congregations. Roughly two-thirds of the membership is located in the South England Conference, which includes the British capital of London, as well as Watford.
-- by Victor Hulbert, British Union Conference, with AR staff