Details released in deadly church fire, neighbors speak out

Neighbors speak out after deadly church fire

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - One man is dead after a church fire in Augusta.

83-year old Ernest Rhodes was pronounced dead after a fire broke out in a church on the corner of Branch Street and 15th street, according to Richmond County Chief Deputy Coroner Kenneth Boose.

The cause of the fire may not be determined for weeks, according to the Augusta Fire Department. However, a kerosene heater was found in the rear of the church. Neighbors tell FOX 54 Rhodes used to get to the church early every Sunday to heat the church before the service.

"At the time they had said someone had been burned inside of the church, which I assumed it was the minister, because I know on Sundays he used to come in and warm up the church and he was basically a quiet gentleman and he spoke, had his little congregation but it was just tragic," said Pamela Bolten, a neighbor of the church.

Other neighbors tell FOX 54 Rhodes was a quiet man who kept to himself and his devotion to his religion. They said the congregation was small, but from the outside of the church you couldn't tell if you were passing by.

"I would just hear the music jumping and hands clapping and everybody just praising the lord," said Franklin Brown, a neighbor of the church.

The fire department tells FOX 54 that the fire started just before noon on Sunday.

They do not expect any foul play was involved.

Rhodes will be sent to Atlanta for an autopsy.

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