Ashford, AL - Last Friday, dozens of firefighters worked for hours to save the Old First Baptist Church of Ashford.
“I parked up the street and the whole downtown area was filled with smoke. The smoke was so thick you couldn’t even breathe,” said Ashford Mayor Jonathan Grecu.
He worried it would be much worse.
“When I got there I asked Chief Poey if we were going to lose the whole building. He said it would be a parking lot by the time we’re done if we’re not really careful,” said Grecu.
The congregation of First Baptist of Ashford moved.
It started a new church on Highway 84 in 2005, and changed its name to Watermark a few years later.
Now it's called the Church of Faith, Hope and Charity.
As many church members stood by and watched the original building burn Friday, memories came flooding back.
“It was my first time marrying, burying, baptizing people. Although the building is gone, the fire can never take away our memories,” Watermark Pastor Todd Thorpe.
“I was baptized there. Went to bible school in the summer there,” said former parishioner Jennifer Johnson.
Although it’s been days since the fire, when the wind blows you can still smell smoke in the air. As people drive by they have a look of disbelief that a building that had become a landmark for the city is now destroyed.
“It’s one of those things when you drove by you didn’t notice it anymore. Now that it's not there it's a little shocking to see the roof caved in and all the char,” said Johnson.
“I think the saddest thing is that hopes and dreams, memories, baptisms, all the events that are centered around the life of a community took place in that church,” said Grecu.
The Federal Agency of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives along with the Dothan Arson Task Force and Alabama Fire Marshal's Office are looking into the cause of the fire.