Fifteen Children Escape Delaware Church Fire

CLAYTON, Del. (AP) -- Fifteen children escaped a fire that gutted a church during a weekend sleepover.

The fire at the First Missionary Baptist Church swept through the inside of the concrete-block building, gutting the interior and causing an estimated $200,000 in damage, said Michael G. Chionchio, chief deputy state fire marshal.

Chionchio said the cause of the fire is under investigation. No one was injured.

The white stucco building, built as a VFW post between 1947 and 1950, was not equipped with a sprinkler system, Chionchio said.

When firefighters arrived about 4:15 a.m. Saturday, they saw ``heavy, black smoke puffing out of every eave and nook and cranny, and pouring from the windows'' of the one-story building, Clayton Fire Company Chief Tom Ruppert said.

About 100 firefighters from around the region responded. When firefighters got inside, they found heavy fire in the kitchen and sanctuary, Ruppert said.