WHITNEY, Texas (FOX 44) – The Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Whitney has suffered heavy damage in a fire.

The Whitney Volunteer Fire Department, in addition to several other area volunteer fire departments such as Lake View and Peoria, were dispatched to 224 Pecos Street around 10:30 p.m. Sunday. The extreme weather temperatures combined with the heat from the fire limited the fire units’ ability to enter the structure.

Whitney PD was dispatched around 10:35 p.m. Officers discovered the fully-involved single-story structure burning. Deputies from the Hill County’s sheriff’s Office assisted police with crowd control.

FOX 44 News has learned The Lakelander Newspaper spoke to Pastor Shane Metcalf and church members on scene, who say the fire started along the front wall of the church. No cause of the fire has been released.

“It hurts, but this is more fuel for our fire,” Pastor Metcalf said. “Trust and believe.”

The church is considered a historic site, and has between 40 to 50 members. The historical marker at the church reads: “Among the first African-American Baptist congregations in Hill County were the churches at Towash (organized in 1869), Lofer’s Bend, and near Aquilla. These three congregations were united in 1883 to form the Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church. Pleasant Hill’s original building was demolished and the cornerstone laid for a new structure in 1894. Church trustees purchased the church lot from Dr. D. R. Wallace of Waco in 1901. The congregation had grown to about 100 members by 1907. More than 100 years later the members carry on the traditions of worship and community instilled by the early Pleasant Hill congregation.”

The investigation into the cause of the fire appears to be suspicious, and requires additional resources according to the Whitney Police Department. The investigation is being conducted by Whitney PD, with assistance from the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Bureau (ATF) and the Hill County Sheriff’s Office.