Church-house damaged extensively in last week's fire

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
A crowd gathers at the corner of Cleveland and Pine streets last Tuesday when firefighters were called to put out a fire in a church that was home for several families and individuals in Pratt.

City of Pratt firefighters, emergency rescue crews and concerned neighbors gathered just after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, December 1 to see flames and smoke pouring out of upper windows, eaves and the roof of a church-converted home at the corner of Pine and Cleveland streets in Pratt. The structure, owned by Misty Beck of Pratt, was heavily damaged by smoke, water and fire, but all human occupants got out safely. Several pets did not.

"There were several dogs that were out but ran back in," said City Fire Chief Todd Hoffman. "Several firefighters went back in after them and got them out, but it was too late and the dogs had succored to smoke inhalation."

Hoffman said three families were reportedly living in the home at the time of the fire, and all occupants were outside when fire crews arrived.

Beck said Marvin Blake, maintenance man for the church-home, was the last to emerge after a concerned neighbor saw his truck parked nearby and did not see him standing among the other residents of the home.

"Thank goodness they went down and got him from the basement where he was sleeping," Beck said. "He got out only with what he had on and some shoes."

While investigation continues into what started the blaze and into the extent of damage to the building, Hoffman said that the fire appeared to have started on the south porch.

"The flames quickly went into the walls and up," said Hoffman. "It was an older structure that had some rennovation done but it went quickly to the roof joists and attic."

City of Pratt firefighters had to cut vent holes in the roof at several places to vent hot gases out, and Hoffman later said as much as 75 percent of the structure suffered significant damage.

Beck said she is still not sure exactly how many people were living in the church-home, but Terrence Veniga, three children and a woman were all accounted for at the time of the fire.

The Pratt Neighbors-Helping-Neighbors Facebook group immediately set up donation points and posted need information and the community members responded in kind to help those who lost just about everything in the fire. The Hope Center helped find lodging for those displaced at the 7 Boutique Hotel on the west side of Pratt.

The historical structure had been home to the Pratt Church of the Nazarene congregation from 1942 to 1969. Other churches congregations that may have spent time in the building included the First Southern Baptist Church and the Pratt Free Methodist Church, according to documents from the Pratt County Historical Museum.