Firefighters and police rushed to a town centre church today when a fire was reported inside the building.
Emergency crews were alerted to the fire at St John the Evangelist Parish Church in Springfield Road, Horsham, at around 1pm.
The fire - at the altar in the Catholic church’s chancel - appeared to have been started by flames from a candle spreading to an altar cloth.
Church secretary Trish Fitzsimmons was in an office next to the church when a woman parishioner raised the alarm. “I rushed to see what was happening,” said Trish. “There was quite a lot of smoke and the front of the altar cloth was on fire.
“There were quite large flames going up the side of the altar. Panic.
“Another parishioner was with me and he knew to pull the pin out of the fire extinguisher.”
Trish managed to put out the fire before the emergency crews arrived on the scene.
She added: “It was very lucky that the lady in the church reacted as quickly as she did.”
A spokeswoman for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said that firefighters inspected the area to make sure it was safe before leaving the property.