Historic church burns in accidental fire

By DeeAnna Haney | Mar 21, 2014

A 120-year-old church burned Friday afternoon on Sutton Town Road in Waynesville when a neighbor accidentally caught it on fire.

Leroy Owens, who lives next-door to the former Sutton Town Baptist Church, was burning brush on the side of the road on his property when winds blew the flames onto the side of the church.

When he realized the church was on fire, he attempted to put the fire out on his own and then ran to his house and told his wife to call 9-1-1, Owens said. By the time crews arrived at the scene, flames were coming out of the roof of the old church.

The Jonathan Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Maggie Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Crabtree/Iron Duff Fire Department, the U.S. Forest Service and the Haywood County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene.

When the fire was finally contained, crews were able to remove several items from the church including the pulpit, hymnals and the church bell.

Owens said the church had been vacant for about five years, but while services were being held there, he always helped with the church maintenance and even installed the heating system.

"I'm just brokenhearted and I don't know what to do," he said, looking at the charred remains of the church. "I wish I could wake up and it was a bad dream."

Haywood County Fire Marshal has declared the fire an accident. Sgt. Chris Shell with the Haywood County Sheriff's Office said authorities are unsure of who the owners of the church and land are at this time.