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St. Mary on The Hill priest picking up pieces after rectory catches fire from lightning strike

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) - A Catholic church in the historic Summerville area is counting the cost after a fire swept through the Rectory Wednesday night.

"I wouldn't have known what to do if I was in that house. I would be probably grabbing an extinguisher trying to act like a hero but I also might've gotten killed."

Vernon Knight, a priest at the historic Saint Mary on The Hill, says he's happy to be alive after the rectory where he lived caught fire. 

"I was getting out of the church heading over to the house to change clothes and about 7:10 I got out of the house to head over and get a pizza and 20 minutes later as I was over at Papa Johns waiting for the pizza I got a call saying the house was on fire. So I immediately raced over as quickly as I can."

He says the building is more than a place he calls home, it's significant to many in the Saint Mary community. 

"The rectory building its over a 100 years old. It's been part of the history of the church. It's where the first service was ever held. Never an incident has happened like this before."

Debris and rubble are all of what's left of what he called home. But Knight says none of that matters. 

"Just thankful to be alive, I know there's a lot of personal stuff that I lost...photos, clothing, and other personal effects, but those can all be replaced. Definitely and just thankfully we're alive and now we have to figure out what to do by step to get this all back together."

Fire crews were on the scene sifting through the debris trying to determine how it all started.

"Investigators are out again this morning just going over the things that they may have possibly did not see last night, because it was dark and raining. So they want to make sure the investigation is done thoroughly and they are working hard at it right now."

He says the community has come together to provide him and the pastor with clothing and a place to stay.

We'll keep you updated with how you can help. 


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