Fire Destroys Church, Two Homes - NBC Chicago

Fire Destroys Church, Two Homes

Authorities don't know if fire was accidental or arson



    Ford Heights church destroyed in blaze. (Published Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010)

    Authorities still don't know whether a fast-moving fire that destroyed two homes and a church in south suburban Ford Heights Wednesday night was accidental or arson.

    They do know, however, that the fire began in a vacant home just a few feet away from the church's north wall.

    "We were inside of the church, and we noticed that there were flames going on on the side, said Joshua Franklin, the nephew of Bishop Kenneth Franklin. "We rushed in and I told them there were flames and fire outside of building, and everybody rushed out."

    Police evacuated church parishioners and residents from at least 10 houses.

    The blaze started in a small house in the 1400 block of Woodlawn Avenue before 7:30 p.m., a Cook County Sheriff's office release said.

    The flames, which could be seen from a mile away, soon spread north to another home and south to Christ For Everyone Ministries.

    The American Red Cross is helping displaced families at the Ford Heights Village Hall. 

    There's no reports of injuries.

    Parishioners are saddened the fire destroyed their beloved church.

    "It means a lot to me. We're close. We're a family. We grew up together. Our children grew up together," Lynn Jackson said tearfully.

    The Illinois State Fire Marshall and U.S.Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating.