Investigators are still trying to determine why a historic Texas church caught fire on Monday. The 125-year-old Church of the Visitation in Westphalia was all but destroyed after igniting on the morning of July 29. Tragically, the incident occurred just as congregants were planning a celebration to mark the church’s anniversary.
A heart-thumping video showed the beautiful building engulfed in uncontrollable flames -- residents reported spotting smoke rising from the building some despite being some five miles away from the site.
“(It’s) extremely difficult and painful to be here,” Joe Vasquez, bishop of the Austin Diocese, explained to KWTXon Monday as the fire ripped through the sanctuary. “I’m very deeply affected by this and I know the people here are also heartbroken.”
The church has announced that it will be taking donations in a bid to rebuild the stunning structure. “This architectural beauty is now a loss,” Vasquez told the outlet, “and that’s what saddens all of us here.”
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the incident. At this time, they are unsure of how the fire began.
The church was first constructed in 1894 after a storm destroyed two previous buildings. In December 1978, the church received the crucial “Texas Historical Marker,” in a bid to keep it in pristine condition. Then, in May 1996, the church and the surrounding 5.5 acres of land was recognized as a Rural Historic District, being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The extensive damage caused by the fire is estimated to total around $3-$4 million, according to the Catholic Herald.
“I am grateful for all the firefighters and departments that responded to the fire,” Vasquez added in a Facebook post by the Diocese of Austin. “Please join me in keeping the people of this historic parish in your prayers today as they try to piece together this tragedy.”
Photo courtesy: Cullan Smith/Unsplash