Alert police officer helps prevent major fire damage at church

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The Saint John's Missionary Baptist Church congregation is staying strong following a fire early Sunday morning. A police officer played a key role in helping prevent major damage.

The fire broke out around 1:30am on Dowling near McGowen.

Firefighters battled the flames on the second floor of the St. John's Education Center. The fire quickly went to three alarms, but didn't spread thanks to a quick thinking Houston police officer. We are told the officer who was patrolling the area spotted smoke coming out of the floor of the education center. She immediately called for help and thanks to that call, the flames didn't have a chance to spread.

"There is no coincidence in anything in life," said Pastor Terrance Grant-Malone. "It was purely God that sent the police officer by and the Houston Fire Department worked so vigilantly and we are grateful."

Despite this being a three-alarm fire, there is some good news here. The church sanctuary is intact and there is no structural damage to this historic building. There is some electrical damage to the entire church campus and because of that, services on this first Sunday of the year had to be moved to a nearby hotel.

The fire did not destroy church members' spirits. Church went on at the nearby Crowne Plaza Hotel with dozens of parishioners in attendance.

St. John's Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1899. Some of the parishioners we talked to tell us they've been members for 80 years. That gives you a sense of how historic this church is and how meaningful it is to its parishioners.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire but they believe it could have started in the electrical system.
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