Posted: Nov 11, 2010 7:26 AM by Andrea Fontenot
Updated: Nov 11, 2010 7:26 AM
Source: Associated Press
HOUMA - An early morning fire destroyed St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in downtown Houma Thursday, leaving little more than the historic building's front steps, part of the steeple and a wall standing.
There were no injuries, and the cause has not yet been determined.
Firefighters, alerted of the blaze at 3:42 a.m., arrived to find a "big ball of fire," said Houma District Fire Chief Chris LeCompte. It took personnel from four departments hours to extinguish the flames, he said.
The fire consumed the church first, spreading to an under-renovation wing of the adjacent church-run elementary school.
LeCompte said that flames went through that building's roof as well, prompting its collapse.
That wing of the school, called the lower school building, had not been used for weeks, said Chuck Bourque, president of the school's Board of Trustees. All other school buildings were untouched by the flames, he said.
Classes were canceled Thursday and Friday but are expected to resume as usual Monday.
The church-run school has 258 students in grades pre-K through seven.
The church, a Houma landmark, had been Terrebonne's second-oldest and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The cypress building where parishioners had worshipped was built in 1896. The church was perhaps best known for its Gothic revival architecture and magnificent stained-glass windows.
Joann Plessala, 79, told The Courier she's been a member of the downtown church "forever" and was devastated to learn of its fate.
"You can rebuild a building," she said, "but you can't rebuild St. Matthew's."