Firefighters investigate arson at historic South Austin church

The Goodwill Baptist Church in South Austin went up in flames Monday night. Investigators said someone set it on fire.

Around 11:30 p.m. March 6, the Austin Fire Department received a call that the Goodwill Baptist Church in the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood in South Austin was on fire.

"It's a tragedy to see that this has happened, but we bless God because we know that he moves in miraculous and strange ways, so we will trust that he will allow us to recover from this," Goodwill Baptist Church Senior Pastor Kelvin Austin said.

The small church with about 15 or 20 members has been serving the Austin area for almost 120 years. Now, it’s going to need help rebuilding. The damage is estimated to be about $200,000.

"We would just seek your prayers, pray for us and that God will bless us and to keep us," Pastor Austin said.

Investigators said the fire started in the Fellowship Hall. Crews were able to put it out within minutes.

"Good response from the citizens getting us notified and good response getting there and a quick knockdown," Austin Fire Department Division Chief Thayer Smith said.

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Smith said crews worked carefully to preserve the history of the building.

"We’re big into what we call salvage and overhaul where we cover items, do the least amount of damage that we can, we have thermal imaging cameras, you know, so that you can look into the walls for heat spots instead of tearing them open," Smith said.

What remains is smoke and water damage, and an investigation. Austin fire officials suspect the blaze was set deliberately.

"This fire is classified as incendiary, which means a fire started where a fire shouldn’t. There weren’t any accidental causes, so it is under investigation," Smith said.

A reward of up to $1,000 is available for information that leads to an arrest.

If you’d like to help the church rebuild, email