FORESTVILLE, Calif. - In the Sonoma County town of Forestville, an early morning fire ravaged a church that was 140 years old. No one was injured, but the damage is extensive.
Parishioners told KTVU about what the church, believed to be the oldest Church of Christ west of the Mississippi, means to them and what happens next. The church recently celebrated its birthday, but the interior is now ruined by fire.
"When you see things like this, it hits home. It hurts," said Jim Lanier.
Firefighters began receiving calls just after 6 a.m. Monday.
There was plenty to fuel the fire.
"In the library part, the Sunday school part, there was a lot of fire load with books. The other part was well involved fire," said Forestville Chief David Franceshi.
The outside of the small church appears intact, but inside little looks salvageable.
Fire investigators are trying to determine how the fire started. Federal authoities are also looking into it as is typical with fires at places of worship. But for people in Forestville, the church is part of town. The church website claims it hasn't missed holding a Sunday service since it opened in 1879.
"Back in the beginning, the church would have two to three week-long meetings here and people would walk from Petaluma way back when and camp at the Russian River and spend the two to three weeks at meetings here," said parishioner Chuck Lanier.
While only a handful of people are now members. Many people here are connected to it through their own history.
"It's sad. It will be hearbreaking to everyone who was connected to it," said former parishioner Jolly Christian.
The parishioners said this is not the end of this old church. They vow to rebuild it.
In the meantime, they'll congretate somewhere else until it's ready.