Fire Racks Up $500K in Damage
The nearby Garnett Elementary School was closed because of smoke drifting over from the church fire. The school reopened the next day.
“Buildings can be replaced; it’s the people that are the church,” McDaniel told Adventist Review in a telephone interview. “The church is still here; it’s the building that’s out of commission.”
According to fire officials and media reports, the local volunteer fire company responded to the call. On seeing smoke and flames shooting from the building, a second alarm was sounded, drawing reinforcements from the Queen Anne’s, Maryland, and New Castle, Delaware, fire companies. A total of 60 firefighters responded to the blaze, which was brought under control in about 90 minutes.
Two ladder trucks were used to gain access to the roof, from which smoke and flames shot out. The suspect organ, a baby grand piano, at least one stained-glass window, and the church’s pews were among items lost in the fire.
“One woman was there” at the church after the fire, he said, telling McDaniel, in tears, “ ‘I was married in that church.’ ”
On the Sabbath following the fire, the Chestertown congregation met with a nearby Adventist church in Rock Hall, Maryland. The next day a business meeting went on as scheduled, but at a Chestertown funeral home.
McDaniel hopes the addition, which did not sustain heavy damage, will be cleaned and available for use as a temporary worship facility in about two weeks. He noted that several area non-Adventist churches have offered their sanctuaries to the Adventists if needed.
And while the fire consumed physical items as well as more than a few memories, McDaniel is glad no one was injured. He views the fire as a potential opportunity for the congregation.
“Sometimes these tragedies are something that can pull you together,” McDaniel said. “I’m telling our people to press together and be united.”