“I looked up and I all I saw was the church smoking.”
That was the reality for dozens of neighbors and onlookers on Saturday morning, as crews battled flames pouring out of Augusta Levy Learning Center in North Wheeling.
“When I drove here from the tunnels, I could see the smoke and just prayed it wouldn’t interfere with our building or they could get it out quickly. Unfortunately, it’s just a loss,” said Angie Wood, Executive Director of the Augusta Levy Learning Center.
Wheeling Assistant Fire Chief Tony Campbell told 7News when officers arrived on scene, crews were able to enter the bell tower to investigate.
But the fire quickly got out of hand.
“Within two minutes the fire had spread across the attic. I had to pull the crews out and we made an attack from the outside,” Campbell said.
The fire was elevated to a second alarm file. The full resources of the Wheeling Fire Department, off duty personnel and the ladder truck from the Cumberland Trail Fire Department were all on scene.
As those crews battled the flames, dozens gathered around in heartache concerned over what happened.
“I had woke up this morning texting my friends and one of them called me to FaceTime. So I went out onto porch and FaceTimed her. I then heard sirens, looked up and saw that the church smoking. I quickly ran to tell my om. I just can’t how many firetrucks showed up and how bad the fire was,” said Wheeling resident Abagail Costain.
Assistant Chief Campbell estimates millions in damages.
The first floor suffered because of debris from the roof falling, while Augusta Levy’s home in the basement suffered severe water damage.
The building also houses Wheeling Neighborhood Ventures. Wood said the kids come first.
Augusta Levy officials tell 7News they’re not concerned about the damages right now.
“The first step is to find a place for our kids and get them the services they need,” Wood said.
Authorities don’t know what caused the fire, but believe it started in the steeple area near the roof. The Wheeling Fire Department Bureau of Fire Investigations says it will work diligently to determine the cause.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Augusta Levy Learning Center. If you’d like to help, click here.