Community saddened after church roof collapses in fire in Lee County, no injuries

Many people were devastated after a church that has served community members for decades in Southwest Florida went up in flames. People we spoke to explained it’s a place that has held significant value for them for many years and continues to serve others.

Multiple fire agencies in Lee County responded to a fire at Morningstar Baptist Church just east of Tice in Lee County Friday afternoon.

According to Tice Fire Department, after 2:30 p.m., firefighters responded to the church off Palm Beach Boulevard in the 5100 block of Richmond Avenue, where the Tice battalion chief said the church roof completely collapsed due to the fire, and crews were not able to get inside.

At least three walls of the church were “structurally compromised” by the fire; otherwise, the church was not fully engulfed in the flames.

Everyone who was at the church was safely evacuated from the building, and there were no injuries due to the fire.

A witness we spoke to says Morningstar Baptist Church has been part of the community for more than 50 years, and they were sad to see the fire damage the church because of what it means to people in the area.

“It’s a loss,” said Eileen Williams, a church member and volunteer.

“I got married in this church,” said Cheryl Fullon, a former member of the church.

Community members remembered the better days inside what has become crumbled walls of their church.

“My youngest daughter was married there,” Williams said.

Community members are not losing their faith.

“God’s always here,” Fullon said. “He’s always at a tragedy. He lets people know that he’s still here.”

Instead of sadness, church members are thankful, thankful the food pantry right next-door wasn’t touched by the fire.

“I’d say it meant a lot to them because there was a lot of them that came here,” said Tony Moxley, who has been the food pantry coordinator for 14 years.

More than 100 families would be without a direct source of food if it wasn’t for the church’s pantry. Moxley says the fire won’t stop them from continuing their work.

“We’ll be back,” Moxley said. “Probably about three weeks, we’ll pass [food] out again.”
Crews used roughly 30,000 to 50,000 gallons of water on the flames, and the fire was contained. Crews continue to put out hot spots at the church property.

Fire investigators have not determined the cause of the fire, but interim Pastor Dwight Williams told us they flipped an electrical switch inside while working on the church during the afternoon, and something sparked up in the ceiling.

Multiple fire crews worked together to contain the fire. Responding fire agencies include but might not be limited to crews from Tice, Bayshore, South Trail, Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres and Iona-McGregor. Emergency medical service crews also responded to the scene.

Reporter:Justin Kase
Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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