A bathroom ventilation fan is the cause of the fire that did more than $1 million in damage at Unity Presbyterian Church.
A little before 10 p.m. Dec. 9, the Fort Mill Fire Department got a call about the church just opposite the town post office. Six fire stations and more than 50 firefighters responded.
The fire happened in Unity Hall, attached to the church’s historic sanctuary. The two-story building has office, storage and meeting space.
The historic sanctuary suffered minor damage. The area around the pipe organ had heavy damage.
Investigation after the fire revealed that faulty wiring in a first-story bathroom ventilation fan was the cause, according to the town fire marshal.
Fire and water damage to Unity Hall and the historic sanctuary are estimated at more than $1 million, according to a release from the fire marshal.
On Monday night, Mayor Guynn Savage said she is one of many people who went to the church upon hearing about the fire.
“A historic church in our community caught on fire,” she said. “I went there because it’s my church.”
Savage praised firefighters, police and emergency responders who kept the fire from doing more damage.
“I can’t tell you what good it does my heart to see the true heroes,” Savage said. “The true heroes in your life are the ones that run toward danger, and not away.”
Savage also thanked firefighters and others from beyond Fort Mill who helped, or offered support.
“It was a beautiful experience to see so many people come together to save a beautiful, historic and iconic church in our community,” she said.
In a letter to its congregation posted on Unity’s Facebook page, the church thanked firefighters who prevented “a catastrophic loss for our faith community.” Still, the 1938 construction Unity Hall was completely gutted, including classrooms, a library and office space, according to the post.
The fellowship hall went undamaged except for a loss of utilities, and the most recent sanctuary expansion on the opposite side of the church had the smell of fire, but otherwise no damage.
The church plans to meet this coming Sunday, Dec. 16 in the normally-used sanctuary.
Further plans on what areas are available for various church functions remain ongoing. The church has been blessed by so many people coming alongside them to help, according to the post, while still recognizing the fire took an area filled with significance.
“We mourn the loss of a significant place in the ministry and identity and memory of this community of faith,” the post reads, “where faith has been formed and ministries of faithful service have been rendered, where children have been nurtured through birth and baptism and confirmation, where marriage vows have been exchanged, where tears have been shed, where loved ones have been laid to rest.”