Community speaks about burned down church

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SEDALIA - Members of the First United Methodist Church in downtown Sedalia said the church was more than just a building to them. A massive fire gutted the church overnight.

Jack H. Lewis, who grew up four blocks away, said he spent his entire childhood there, from boy scouts to youth group.

"You drive by all the time, it's just a building, and then, when you start seeing the pictures and seeing the fire, all of a sudden you get this flood of memories," Lewis said. "It like losing a best friend."

The church has been standing on the same corner since 1888.

People at the scene on Thursday said some families in Sedalia have gone to the First Methodist Church for generations. 

Terry Bartol  went to youth classes in the basement of the church as a young girl. She said the closeness of the community there was a big reason she decided to stay in Sedalia after moving back in 2007.

"I've seen so many people in our congregation and outside of our congregation, and I've even met people that aren't actually from Sedalia that have come down to see it," Bartol said. "It really means a lot, it holds a special place to the community."

Firefighters initially responded to the fire at 9:49 p.m Wednesday night.

According to the Sedalia Fire Department, a police officer spotted smoke coming from the basement of the church at 117 W. 4th Street.

Firefighters reported seeing flames coming out of the upstairs window when they arrived at the scene. Parts of the roof collapsed only a few minutes after their arrival, they said.

The fire department said no one was in the building at the time of the fire. 

Sedalia Deputy Fire Chief Greg Harrell announced Thursday the church will have to be demolished.

Members of the church community said a candle vigil will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday night.

(Editor's note: This story has been updated to include witness accounts and the most recent information.) 

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