Less than 12 hours after a Sunday evening service at Little Zorah Baptist Church in New Iberia, only charred remains were left of the 128-year-old wooden structure after it was destroyed in an overnight fire.
The Rev. Shawn Watson, Little Zorah’s pastor for 14 years, lives two doors down from the church in the 3600 block of Old Jeanerette Road. He said he woke up after 2 a.m. to hear someone knocking on his door with news of the fire.
By that time, “the church was already engulfed in flames,” Watson, 50, recalled Monday.
It took 26 firefighters from six area fire departments to battle the blaze, District 1 Fire Chief Guy Bonin said Monday. Responders were there within 10 minutes of the 2:53 a.m. fire call, and the fire was contained within 35 minutes, Bonin said.
Firefighters remained on the scene until about 6 a.m.
“That’s just making sure the fire is completely out,” Bonin said.
Utility companies were at the site Monday morning repairing the electric and cable lines damaged in the fire, but no nearby structures were damaged, Bonin said.
Watson said he’ll meet with his church leaders Tuesday to determine a plan for Little Zorah, which hosts church-related activities four to five days a week for its 85 to 100 parishioners.
One option may be to combine services with Star Pilgrim Baptist Church on East Pershing Street, Little Zorah’s sister church where Watson is also pastor.
“We’re very close-knit church families,” Watson said. “We may be worshipping together.”
The structure that housed Little Zorah for about 60 years was built in 1887 to serve the black community in antebellum Louisiana, Watson said.
“Rebuilding is in the future,” likely in the old church’s place, Watson said. “We’ve gotten all the business taken care of.”
The State Fire Marshal’s Office will handle the investigation into what caused the fire. Bonin said no foul play is suspected at this point.
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