Cross Tracks Church focuses on future after fire
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
With a handful of staff and church members huddled around a picnic table under a covered driveway, set against the backdrop of the fenced off remains of the Cross Tracks Church building that burned Saturday, Pastor John Saint focused on a positive message.
“We’re going to rebuild this building,” said Saint. “We’re already starting to get excited about how we’re going to do things a little differently. We’re hopeful and we’re looking to the future.”
The building, only feet from the chapel building, was home to the Sonshine Friends Preschool, the church offices and the fellowship hall. The fire, which is believed to have started between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, consumed the inside of the building, leaving only the stone exterior. Saint said the building is a total loss.
“We are hoping perhaps there are a few memories they can recover for us,” Saint said. “We also have some safes we kept important documents in and we want to recover those, but at this point, anything that’s recovered that doesn’t absorb water is probably burned or broken.”
Still, in spite of the loss, the church is looking for all the positives in this difficult time.
“This structure will have to be demolished and we’ll start over with brand new plans,” Saint said. “That’s another aspect of this community, people are already starting to look toward the future and they’re already talking about the excitement of getting to rebuild this building and do it a little different this time.”
No one was in the building when the fire started, and no one was injured. A few neighboring homes had to be evacuated temporarily, but none were damaged. And firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to the chapel, separated from the building only by a sidewalk.
“First responders saved our chapel,” Saint said. “They prevented any damage from happening other than some smoke getting in the building, which is inevitable. We’re grateful because they worked hard to keep that fire from spreading.”
Being such a heavily-used facility for so many years, the loss of the building did stir emotions.
“It’s not that it’s a sacred building, but the memories of the joys and the tears that have been experienced in that building, those memories are sacred,” Saint said. “There’s a lot of those memories of good times and bad that people have experienced and shared together in this building.”
In addition to being thankful no one was injured and the chapel was spared, Saint was grateful for the outpouring of support from the community.
“The response from the community has been overwhelming,” Saint said. “From the first responders who came from all over the county, to the school district who has offered up the use of their facilities, to other churches in town and preschools in town who have offered to give us space. People have been calling, asking how they can help.
“It’s just a wonderful community and to see people coming together around this sort of thing is good to see,” he said. “There’s a spirit of cooperation and faith that we’re all working together toward the same ends. Everybody wants to help and is being generous with their time and their efforts and we can’t thank people enough.”
Cross Tracks held services in the Liberty Hill ISD administration building Sunday.
“We had a great turnout,” he said. “We’re hoping to have services (at the church) on Sunday, we don’t know for sure we may have to meet offsite again.”
All other events and activities planned for this week have been moved or cancelled.
Williamson County Emergency Services District #4 is leading the investigation into the cause of the fire, but no information was available as of Monday afternoon.
Before the investigation can be completed, structural inspectors will be called in to assess the building and make sure it is structurally sound enough for investigators to get inside.
According to Fire Marshal Keeling Neves, the investigation should begin Tuesday morning with inspectors assisting Neves from the county and state as well as other agencies.
“We will have six to 10 fire investigators out here,” Neves said Monday afternoon. “At this point it is undetermined because we have to wait until the structure is safe for us to go in.”
Anyone wanting to make a donation or offer assistance to Cross Tracks Church can make a donation or contact the church through it’s website, said Saint, who reemphasized his church’s focus on the future in the midst of this loss.
“This is sad,” Saint said. “There’s a lot of emotion that goes with losing a place that holds so many sacred memories, but this is not a tragedy. There was no loss of life, there were no injuries. It was just property. Even those sentimental pieces are just things.”