MULESHOE, Texas – Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Muleshoe caught on fire early Sunday morning with more than 200 people inside.
Members said a church official detected smoke and instead of immediately sounding the alarm, chose to keep a cool head. An announcement was made, the congregation was calmly asked to leave the building. More than 200 people evacuated as the flames started spreading.
One member of the church, Juanita DelToro, said as soon as people reached the parking lot, they saw smoke and flames coming out of the building.
“You know, people crying. It was just a shock. It’s a sad, sad situation,” DelToro said.
One member, Rosario Cabrera, said she was on her way to the church when she got a call from her teenage daughter, who told her the church was on fire.
“I thought she was just telling me so I can hurry up and get over here and know when I came. It was unbelievable to see what was going on,” Cabrera said.
Members of the church said they were shocked and thankful that church officials were able to remain calm and collected, likely preventing massive panic that may have saved lives.
“I do want to thank Father Eddie Vetter Mercado because he was able to stay calm,” Cabrera said. ”He tell everybody, ‘Let’s go outside,’ without actually telling them what was going on. Everybody followed in an orderly fashion. Everybody was calm, and we’re very grateful that everybody was able to get out.”