(LEBANON) - Fire ripped through a church in Lebanon early Sunday morning as a severe thunderstorm rolled through parts of Boone County.
The fire began about 5:45 a.m. at the Lebanon First Church-Nazarene in the 1000 block of North Garfield Street.
Flames shot hundreds of feet into the air as fire crews battled the blaze. Firefighters doused hot spots for several hours after the fire began.
The church was destroyed, but no one was injured.
Church member Laura Trafford said another member who lives close to the church discovered the fire.
"She said that she heard this loud crack and pop, and when she immediately ran back inside, all of a sudden, they saw flames," Trafford said.
The fire was difficult to fight because of the brick building. Firefighters were in defensive mode as the roof collapsed. Brick walls had to be knocked down so water could be put on the fire.
"Luckily, no one was in the building," said Lebanon fire Battalion Chief Chuck Batts. "The fire was growing rapidly through the attack, so we decided to pull our crews out and go defensive."
Kameron Trafford, also a church member, assisted firefighters.
"Me and my little brother were actually staying in a tent during the storm, and we saw the lightning strike and then we smelled it," Kameron Trafford said. "We came over, and a couple of firefighters had us help them with the hose, hook it up and everything like that."
Information about what sparked the fire wasn't immediately available, though there was frequent lightning in the area at the time.
Fire investigators said lightning is a possibility but that the blaze remains under investigation.
The congregation had services at Lebanon Middle School, though lightning strikes damaged the air conditioning to the school.
"The immediate priority and immediate need was to help our community," said Robert Taylor, superintendent of Lebanon Community Schools.
Members of the congregation remain faithful.
"The building is gone, like our pastor said, but the church still stands," Laura Trafford said. "The church stands in all of us, so we know that we'll be able to rebuild by God's good graces."
Pastor Richard Burdett and church members said they hope to rebuild on the same property.
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