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Fire Marshal's Office: Cause of fire undetermined at Westphalia church

The Church of the Visitation Fire
Posted at 8:19 AM, Jul 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-16 14:03:07-04

FALLS COUNTY, TX — The State Fire Marshal's Office has completed their report on the Church of the Visitation fire in Westphalia.

The fire happened on July 29 and started at 7:50 a.m. A Westphalia volunteer firefighter requested the State Fire Marshal's Office to conduct an origin and cause examination of the scene.

The cause of the fire is undetermined. The report said there were no injuries or deaths in the fire.

The fire destroyed the 124-year-old church in under 45 minutes.

125 years ago our forefathers had the foresight to build this gorgeous church, and I think it's our duty to replace it to as close to what it was before, and we're going to try to do that to the best of our ability.
Nancy Doskocil

Falls County officials said the call came in around 7:55 a.m. at The Church of the Visitation at 114 County Rd 3000. The church is a historical marker and known to be one of the largest wooden church structures in the state.

Over 10 separate agencies responded and continued to work through July 29-30 to ensure flareups and hot spots were no longer present.

Issuing a statement to Central Texas News Now, Constable Jerry Loden explained with tears in his eyes, "I married my high school sweetheart in this church 34 years ago, so it's a sad day."

State Fire Marshals have not yet determined a cause for the fire, though Falls County Officials explained to Central Texas News Now that upon their arrival on scene, flames were most visible in the South bell tower, the same area they explained the church's electrical panels were located.

After being determined a "total loss," state fire marshals have installed caution tape, as well as a fencing, to preserve the scene as the investigation is ongoing.

While looking through the rubble, first responders found the tabernacle, as well as one of the church bells, intact. They are still searching for additional sacred relics.

The church opened in 1895. The first mass was said to be in 1882. The original church building, that was completed in 1884, was destroyed by a storm.

Lott fire, Bruceville-Eddy fire, Rogers fire, Troy fire, Temple fire, Waco Rehab Unit, Bremond fire, Falls County Sheriff's Office, Wesphalia fire, Reagan fire, Rosebud fire and Marlin fire were on the scene.

Looking toward the future of Westphalia's congregation, lifelong parishioner Nancy Doskocil said, "We're gonna need everybody. This is not going to happen over night. We need all the help and monetary we can get and cooperation. And together, we're going to do it. We're going to rise from these ashes and have something just as beautiful, if not more beautiful."

For those who would like to donate and help, the diocese has established the Church of the Visitation Fund. The building was insured, but this would help with unexpected expenses that will arise during this time.

"Donations to the fund will be used for the immediate needs of the parish, as well as on-going expenses that the parish will encounter as it rebuilds."

Click here to donate to the fund online. Checks can be sent to the diocese at Church of the Visitation Fund, Diocese of Austin, 6225 E US 290 HWY SVRD EB, Austin, TX 78723. Please make checks payable to the Diocese of Austin with “Church of the Visitation” in the memo line.