MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the state fire marshal are still searching for what caused a massive blaze at a church in Macon. However, an agent with ATF tells 41 NBC, there are "early indications" that an arsonist may be to blame.
Crews spent Monday sifting through the ruins at Reaching Souls Cathedral of Praise, Apostolic Church. On Monday around 12:30 a.m., the building on Bethesda Avenue near Rocky Creek Road went up in flames. The fire was already ripping through the roof when crews arrived.
"They're pretty much totally destroyed," said Macon-Bibb Fire Chief Marvin Riggins.
Devrois Gordon and his family live right behind the
church. He's just grateful no one was hurt.
"Last night, I was asleep and I smelled the smoke in my house," Gordon said.
Fifty years ago, Boyce Herndon's grandfather built the original sanctuary. Reverend Herndon preached at the church formerly known as Bethesda Baptist Church until his death. His grandson, Boyce Herndon, said this is the first time that the church went up in flames, but not the first time the church has been under fire.
In 2005, the roof of the building collapsed. In 2008, the church's pastor Onslow Ross was convicted of 54 financial counts ranging from bank fraud to money laundering. Ross is currently serving a ten year sentence.
"Well, it ran for a long time with a lot of different preachers since then," Herndon said, "I reckon the community just went in a different direction and the church did also."
41 NBC reached out to the church's current owners. They declined comment.