A year after a devastating fire, the church on James Island is working to rebuild

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JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) – It’s been a tough year for Fort Johnson Baptist Church on James Island after a massive fire essentially destroyed its sanctuary and adjacent classrooms.

The church, however, overcame several hurdles in the past 12 months and began construction and reconstruction in hopes of having everything open again for the congregation in less than a year, church leaders say. church.

It was a lightning strike that caused the devastating fire in the church last September. That morning, fire engulfed the steeple as smoke billowed from the building.

“By the time I got here, with the red lights and traffic, the roof had collapsed and everything was up in smoke,” Pastor Marty Middleton said.

The flames, smoke and water caused irreparable damage to the sanctuary and adjoining classrooms, he said.

“The insurance company and our construction team debated whether to save the walls or tear them down and start over,” he says. “But because it was built so well in the 1960s, they were able to save the structure, which has its pros and cons.”

The church has overcome several hurdles over the past 12 months and has begun building and rebuilding in hopes of having everything open again for the congregation in less than a year, church leaders say.(Live 5)

Since the fire, the restoration of the church has been a difficult project.

“We couldn’t wick the moisture out,” Middleton says. “The mold covered the whole building. During the demolition, there ended up being asbestos. This whole process led to the gutting of the building.

These hurdles have been associated with the need to upgrade facilities to meet new codes, address insurance and licensing issues, and maneuver supply and staffing shortages, while continuing services at Fort Johnson Baptist.

“They had it all together, the following Sunday, so three or four days later we were all sitting in church hearing about the fire, grateful that no one was hurt,” said Jennifer Batliner, a member of the ‘church.

They tore down the inside of the church, cleaning everything inside until the outside was left standing, Middleton said. They have also just started the building and rebuilding process, installing plumbing and reconfiguring classrooms.

The main building of the Fort Johnson Baptist Church had to be gutted due to mold and asbestos...
The main building of the Fort Johnson Baptist Church had to be gutted due to mold and asbestos before reconstruction could begin.(Live 5)

“We expect to be back in class in January or February,” he says. “And then the sanctuary itself, probably early next summer is when we can open the doors there.”

Amid the construction and renovations, Batliner says she is counting the days until she can walk through those doors and enter the newly renovated sanctuary.

“I think it’s going to feel like a homecoming – peaceful and a fresh start, but without losing the old,” she says.

The majority of funds to rebuild the church come from insurance, Middle says, but tens of thousands of dollars come from donations from the community, other churches and other groups.

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