12 years since a fire destroyed much of Cross Plains, a church counts its blessing


CROSS PLAINS, Texas - Twelve years ago a massive fire swept through Cross Plains two days after the Christmas holiday.

When the smoke cleared, two lives were lost and more than a hundred buildings were destroyed. Among those buildings was the First United Methodist Church. 

"Most of them that lost their homes we're familiar with," Arlene Stephenson, the church's secretary, said on Wednesday.

The fire began on Dec. 27, 2005, by what fire officials said at the time was a lit cigarette. Besides the two people who died, the flames destroyed 116 structures. 

First United Methodist Church rebuilt using mostly donations and opened in 2008 in a new location along North Main Street. The church still keeps photos of the fire on display inside.

"There's not much of a way to describe what that fire looked like," Stephenson said. "I don't know if anybody could."

Stephenson said she could remember digging into the church's ashes while they were still hot. 

"And there was the baby Jesus from the nativity scene that had dropped down. Totally untouched, unscathed, nothing had melted against it," she said.

The church has the baby Jesus behind a glass casing in the foyer. Stephenson said finding it among the rubble meant so much to the 131-year-old congregation. 

"There it was the promise and the hope that we were on our way back again," she said. "It could not take us down with a fire."

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