Fire Destroys Church, Devastates Community

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Less than a month from Christmas members of a congregation in Friend, Nebraska watched their church burn Monday morning.

Neighbors reported smelling smoke in the area as early as 6 a.m. but the morning fog made it impossible to pinpoint the source. Officials say crews didn't find the fire until 9 a.m. By then the fire, which is believed to have started in the rafters, had spread throughout the church.

Crews from Friend, Dorchester, Crete and Exeter all battled the flames but by the time they were out 2 hours later, the inside of the building was gutted, according to fire officials.

The church's Pastor and a group of parishioners gathered and watched the crews fight the fire. The church had just completed a $100,000 renovation. The building was insured, but the historic building will probably have to be torn down and rebuilt.

Fire inspectors are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.

A local school has already offered space for the church to hold its Christmas services.