Lisa Murphy, an employee at The Sanctuary Church of God Daycare just outside Sylacauga on U.S. 280 East, said the children in the daycare were asleep. Murphy said she was concerned about a noise she thought was coming from the gym. She went to check and was ready to ask whoever it was to be quiet but discovered the fire around 1 p.m. Friday.
Murphy alerted the other three employees, who were able to safely evacuate the eight daycare children to the church’s main building and away from the fire.
Sylacauga Fire Department Chief Matt Missildine said the department responded to assist the County Line Volunteer Fire Department, since the facility is in its district.
“When we arrived we found a working fire in the back right corner of the building,” Missildine said.
Firefighters entered the front door to establish what is called a “black out,” he said. Firefighters spray the fire with water, which creates steam. “The steam actually puts the fire out,” Missildine said.
Any black smoke that remains are “hot spots” that need attention, he said.
At one point while firefighters entered the building, Missildine surveyed the rear of the building looking for “tell-tell” signs.
“The ‘white smoke’ is actually steam and not an active fire,” he said. “The black smoke coming from the vents tells you that the fire is still active above and I can tell my men they still have an active fire overhead,” he said.
Missildine also checked on a trailer just outside the kitchen area. King’s Kitchen director Bobby Davis said he alerted firefighters that there were butane tanks in the trailer.
Missildine said several other departments responded with tankers to supply water. The Sylacauga department was joined by volunteer fire departments from Hollins, Stewartville, Fayetteville, Kellyton, Weogufka and Hanover.
With temperatures hovering at 100 degrees, a major concern for Missildine was the heat. “Had this been December we would not have needed a third, even a half of the resources used today,” he said.
To provide relief to the firefighters they worked the fire for 30 minutes and rested 30 minutes, Missildine said. “Rest involves more than just rest and water. They must take in sodium and electrolytes,” he said. “That’s why we provide Gatorade and snacks.”
Only one firefighter had to have an IV, Missildine said. “He’s doing good now.”
He said the Talladega Fire Department was sending relief so his men could rest.
The fire appears to have begun in the kitchen in the back of the multipurpose facility. It spread upstairs to an area that served the church’s teen ministry.
“I hate it,” Pastor Freddie Edwards said. “The building involved included our daycare, our children’s ministry and our youth ministry.”
The King’s Kitchen, a ministry that has provided meals at various disasters lost its grill and possibly supplies stored in the building.
Randy Moore, who lives east of The Sanctuary and owns several mobile homes along a ridge overlooking the church, was at the scene. He said he was concerned about the fire spreading toward the wooded area between the church and his property. He said he had a pressure washer and hoses ready to fight the fire if he had to.
Missildine said the state fire marshal came for a cursory inspection and will probably return next week. The fire remains under investigation.
“I can’t overstate it: my men did great,” Missildine said.
Contact Mark Ledbetter at firstname.lastname@example.org.