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Downstate town loses 89-year-old church in fire

Crews demolish First Christian Church RoyaltIll. after pre-dawn fire destroyed 89-year-old church. | AP Photo

Crews demolish the First Christian Church in Royalton, Ill., after a pre-dawn fire destroyed the 89-year-old church. | AP Photo

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Updated: October 28, 2013 11:21AM

ROYALTON — Authorities are trying to pinpoint what caused a weekend fire that destroyed an 89-year-old church in the southern Illinois village of Royalton, leaving displaced congregants to hold their services in the town hall.

No injuries resulted from the pre-dawn blaze Sunday involving the three-story First Christian Church that since 1924 has been a fixture in the 1,100-resident Franklin County town about 15 miles north of Carbondale. Firefighters from Royalton and surrounding communities took roughly three hours to control the blaze.

A state fire investigator, David Bandera, told KFVS-TV the blaze was not suspicious and apparently started in the upper portion of the building, above the balcony. He said the extent of the destruction may make determining the cause of the fire difficult.

Fire Chief Mike Hooker noted that this is the time of year that home and business owners traditionally fire up their furnaces.

The church’s pastor, Darrell McCombs, called news of the blaze “devastating” but insisted worshippers will weather the disaster. On Sunday, McCombs led services at the town hall, which will be the church’s makeshift quarters in the weeks ahead.

“We’ve had several offers from a lot of the congregations in town and other towns offering us buildings and supplies, and other things we will need,” McCombs told KFVS. “We’re going to continue to meet each week and see what we can do from here. And we’ll rebuild and we’ll be right back here in Royalton.”

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