Pitman, New Jersey Residents Vow To Rebuild Historic Church

Dec. 4, 2003
Fire investigators said an electrical problem was the likely cause of a devastating fire in Pitman, N.J.

PITMAN, N.J. -- Fire investigators said an electrical problem was the likely cause of a devastating fire in Pitman, N.J.

Flames engulfed the historic church Monday night. The United Methodist Church has been a big part of the community for more than a century.

Townspeople said the entire community was built around the steeple of the church, which was built more than 100 years ago.

The original building was established in 1885 and the pastor of the church, the Rev. Lanie Price, said the church was built in 1910. People were baptized there, married there and had their funeral at the church.

When the fire lit up the sky Monday night, it was an emotional blow to people belonging to all churches and faiths in the town.

Slideshow: Images From The Church Fire Scene

April Ale was in tears, and she didn't even go to the church.

"It's very sad. (I wasn't a member), but you remember the community and we are family. But, we will make this right," Ale said.

The fire was intense and took a terrible toll on the church. The fire marshal said even though the building was a total loss, but its structure is still sound.

William Reiger, the Gloucester County fire marshal is convinced the source of the fire was electrical.

"It's the only ignition source available in the area. But, again, it has to be proven yet," Reiger said.

The church's bells and music were heard throughout the town almost every day.

"I think one of the things that everybody will miss is, every now and then, the organist would go in and play the organ and it would go through the bells, and I think that's something that everybody in town will miss. I know I'll miss it," said Jeff Albert, Pitman's assistant fire chief.

The community is banding together to preserve the landmark.

"I was just saying to my people here, the church is still here. The building is missing," Price said.

The church planned to have a meeting Tuesday night at a local Baptist church and on Sunday they will have services at a local theater.

Copyright 2003 by NBC10.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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