A toddlers’ group was looking for new premises this week after the church it meets in was damaged during a blaze.
Firefighters raced to Lower Withington at around 1.30pm on Friday after an explosion and fire involving properties and the rear of the Methodist church in the centre of the village.
It is believed an electrical fault caused an oil tank to explode, causing flames to spread to the buildings, destroying a car and damaging several properties.
Afterwards, the ground was littered with children’s books used by the mothers and toddlers’ group, which now needs new premises.
Photos showed extensive damage at the rear of the church and the burned-out vehicle.
The alarm was raised when thick, black acrid smoke was spotted rising from behind the Methodist church on the green.
Bernard Tuck, who was having lunch with his wife in the Red Lion on the other side of the green, alerted the landlord to call the fire and rescue service when he spotted thick smoke.
“I suddenly saw smoke drifting over the field and assumed it was someone burning garden rubbish,” said Mr Tuck.
“But within seconds the sky turned black with plumes of acrid smoke coming from the direction of the Methodist Church darkening the blue sky.”
The blaze was still raging behind the church when firefighters arrived and initially, they had difficulty locating an active water hydrant before tackling the outbreak.
A report on the incident by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said five fire engines attended from Congleton, Macclesfield, Wilmslow, Lymm and Crewe, as well as an aerial ladder platform from Lymm.
“Firefighters were called to an incident involving two houses and a church in Lower Withington,” said the report.
“On arrival, crews found that a fire had spread from one property into the roof space of a nearby church and an adjoining cottage.
“Four sets of breathing apparatus and two hose reels jets were used to tackle the blaze.”
Fire crews used a thermal imaging camera to check for signs of further ignition after putting out the blaze.
The mums and tots group, which restarted at the church last November following the pandemic, was confident this week that a new location could be found. An appeal has also been made for donations of toys.
The group usually meets at the church on Tuesday mornings, but this week’s session was cancelled following the fire.
It was set up not only as a place where little ones had an opportunity to mix with others but where parents could go for coffee and a chat.
A spokesperson said: “Hopefully we will find another venue. We’ve got a couple in mind so hopefully we will be back on our feet next week. We don’t want to fold as the group is so well supported.”
They added: “We are appealing for donations of toys as we have been unable to go back into the church to see what has been damaged.”
A seniors’ group usually meets at the chapel lounge on the first Tuesday of the month.
Anyone with toys to donate can call minister the Rev Nic Langton-Miller on 01260 297 298.
Mrs Langton-Miller told the Chronicle: “The fire at our chapel came as a shock to us all, but we thank God that nobody was hurt. While it is too early to know the lasting damage, we are presently finding temporary locations for our midweek groups and our Sunday services will take place in the village hall.”
She said that everyone was “immensely grateful” to the fire crews who “quickly” extinguished the blaze meaning the damage was not as bad as it could have been.
An assessment of the building is awaited to find out the extent of the damage.
She added: “We feel really fortunate to be part of such a supportive community who have rallied around to help support our worshipping community both on the day of the fire and subsequently, and we ask for everyone’s prayers for us as we move forward.”