Polk church catches fire with attendees inside

Posted at 6:54 AM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 18:20:46-05

There are no reported injuries after a Polk County church caught fire Tuesday evening with attendees inside. 

Polk County Fire Department said all 15 people inside were able to get out safely, but the Beraca First Haitian Baptist Church in Haines City suffered significant damage.

The building's roof has collapsed, and it will likely be a total loss. 

"I just thank God that we're still alive," Pastor Fritz Paul said.

Members said this is a huge loss for the community, as this was the only Haitian church in the area. More than 200 people attended made up the congregation.

Paul said the church is more than 80 years old and, because of its age, they were never able to get insurance.

"Every time we got a policy, six months later they send our money back saying that they won't be able to help us any longer," he said.
That makes picking up the pieces extra difficult.
"We don't know exactly what we're going to do now," one parishioner told ABC Action news.
For now, the congregation is leaning on the community's generosity. Other pastors dropped by Wednesday to offer support and a place for them to worship while they figure out how to move forward.
The church was located at 1250 26th St. N., where there was still an active scene into Wednesday morning.

The State Fire Marshal responded to the fire, and an investigation was ongoing. Early reports said wood ceilings may have been partially responsible for the fire spreading so quickly, ultimately causing the roof to collapse.

Members of the church setup a Go Fund Me account to help either rebuild or move to a new home.