WESTPHALIA, Texas – A historic church that is the center piece of the Central Texas community of Westphalia burned on Monday morning.
Several fire departments responded to the fire which sent flames high in the air from the large wooded structure. Temple Fire and Rescue sent a ladder truck to assist.
The Church of the Visitation, marked by its classic twin towers, was built in 1895. It was completely destroyed in the fire.
The State Fire Marshal has been called to investigate. For now, officials say the fire started in the south tower sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m.
“Within 30 minutes, there was orange flames shooting 100 feet into the air. So we know it was all gone at that point,” says church member Nancy Doskocil.
“We came as quick as we could and started spraying water on it and weren’t able to control it, of course,” says Falls County Constable Jerry Loden.
Loden says the wooden church burned down in just 45 minutes.
They realized the church was a loss and started focusing on saving the rectory and surrounding buildings.
The Bishop of the Diocese of Austin came to survey the damage of what he said was a treasured church.
“It’s extremely painful and difficult to be here and see the ruins now and the smoke,” says Bishop Joe Vasquez.
Vasquez’s message to the congregation is to not lose hope because they will rebuild.
“That love and faith is not diminished. It is not in any way weakened. In fact, I believe from these ashes it will grow even stronger,” Vasquez says.
The bishop says he believes some people were able to save the tabernacle from the ruins, and there are hopes that the congregation will be able to hold services in their nearby buildings for the time being.