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Fire damages historic Unity Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill, officials say

An historic Fort Mill church was damaged by fire late Sunday.

The fire was at Unity Presbyterian Church on Tom Hall Street. No injuries were reported as there were no services Sunday because of the weather.

Fort Mill fire chief Chipper Wilkerson said Monday morning it could be several days before a cause and other details are determined. His department responded to a fire alarm, he said, and found flames and visible smoke upon arrival. The incident brought out six fire departments and 53 firefighters.

“The fire was behind the original sanctuary, in the classroom type, office area,” Wilkerson said. “There is minor damage to the sanctuary.”

The incident remains under investigation. No one at the church at the time was injured.

“Everyone went home the way they went there,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson said firefighters worked hard to subdue the fire, saving many of the areas attached to where the worst flames were, including the historic sanctuary.

“It absolutely could have been worse,” Wilkerson said.

Around midnight, the church posted on its Facebook page that fire damaged the area behind the historic sanctuary which could include the library, classrooms and Unity Hall. The extent of damage wouldn’t be determined at least into today, it read.

“I am certain that in the days ahead, our teams and staff will be contacting church officers for assistance as we recover,” interim senior minister Mark Diehl wrote in the post. “Please direct your prayers to the first responders and to those for whom these buildings hold so many memories of faith and life.”

In addition to church use, the classrooms have for decades been used by the community including most every weeknight for scouting lessons and events.

Mid-morning Monday, fire inspectors remained on site in a soft but sideways snow. The entire front side of the church lay marked off with caution tape. The most apparent smoke damage, and the area where inspectors seemed most focused, appeared to be the space in between the front historic sanctuary drivers can see from Tom Hall, and the back rooms visible from the cemetery. The damaged area connects to both.

Unity, founded in 1788, sits in downtown Fort Mill and has had at least three fires prior to the one Sunday night. The church cemetery, just behind the classroom space that caught fire, dates back to 1838. The oldest remaining building dates back to 1881. Unity added its fifth sanctuary in 2010.

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