CHESAPEAKE, Va. - The Chesapeake Fire Department battled flames at a historical church on Friday morning.
Gabriel Chapel A.M.E Zion church, located in the Fentress section of the city, was reported to be on fire around 2 a.m.
Arriving nine minutes later, firefighters reported heavy fire and smoke coming from the building. A second alarm was dispatched as firefighters deployed multiple hose lines to battle the fire and bring the intense flames under control. The church has sustained major fire damage as firefighters were able to mark the fire under control at 4:46 a.m.
Fire officials confirmed later in the morning that lightning was a contributing factor. Officials said evidence from the scene and storm data from NOAA confirmed that a lightning strike was noted at that location at 11:49 p.m.
Officials confirmed that a firefighter had minor injuries treated on scene and was released.
News 3's Samantha German spoke with the pastor of the church, Sandy Hutchinson, as she gave her raw testament to seeing most of her historical church up in flames.
The Gabriel Chapel A.M.E Zion Church is a designated historical landmark in Chesapeake. Their website says it is the oldest church in what is known as the Long Ridge and Cuffeytown Community.
The website further explains that Cuffeytown was established in 1866 and was the first church to be founded in the area by free African-Americans of the community.
The building still has its original stained-glass windows at 154 years old.
Firefighters helped church members retrieve the building's cornerstone, the church bell, which had fallen during the fire. They also retrieved the last remaining glass window.
Church members of Gabriel Chapel AME Zion church singing uplifting hymns before a powerful prayer was led. You can hear the members singing “I will trust in the Lord.” https://t.co/MCxriFRCAx pic.twitter.com/SqaATzaN0a— Samantha German (@samantha_german) August 28, 2020
#DEVELOPING: Just arrived to see the damage at this historic church in #Chesapeake. All I can say is wow. Earlier the pastor told us it’s the area’s 1st church founded by free slaves. DETAILS: https://t.co/6iQq32Jn2A @WTKR3 pic.twitter.com/4d4Ds7T8zN— Anthony Sabella (@AnthonyWTKR) August 28, 2020
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