A North Carolina pastor's wife died and their daughter was injured on Christmas Eve after a Christmas tree caught fire, setting the house ablaze.
Emergency responders answered a call in Hartnett County just after 10:15 p.m. on Dec. 24, according to WRAL.
Sarah Beddingfield, 68, was unable to get out of the home and died at the scene.
Hartnett County Sheriff Dan Coats said the Beddingfield family had returned home from Christmas Eve services at Memorial Baptist Church in Buies Creek, where the Rev. Ed Beddingfield serves as pastor. The tree caught fire after they had returned home, said Coats.
Ed and his two adult daughters who were visiting for the holidays, Shannon and Meghan, were able to escape the fire. Shannon was taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for burns. She could be in hospital for up to two months.
The reverend also had minor burns but was not admitted to the hospital, according to WNCN.
Neighbor Dianna Cole, who lives across the street, described seeing flames shooting out of the roof of the house, according to WRAL.
"The whole front porch was just flames," she said. "I was like, 'Oh my God.' I ran in the house and told the kids, and I came outside to see what I could do to help."
Cole said she had just visited with Sarah days earlier.
"I took her a card and some cookies, and I saw the tree," Cole said. "It didn't look like a dry tree. I just thought, 'Oh, this tree looks beautiful.' [Sarah was] just a sweet, sweet woman. I couldn't have hand-picked a better neighbor."
A member of the congregation who is also a family friend, Ron McLamb, said the family heard a noise inside the home near the Christmas tree, and then found the fire, according to WNCN.
Deacons at Memorial Baptist Church notified church members in an email sent on Christmas Day.
"At our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service last evening, our pastor, Ed Beddingfield, assured us that God is with us even in times of great darkness." the email read, reports The Fayetteville Observer. "Later that evening, that darkness visited our pastor and our congregation as Eds sweet wife, Sarah, died in a fire at their home."
Fire crews were on the scene for eight hours. The fire damaged the first and second floors of the home.
While authorities believe the incident will be proven to be an accident, investigation into the cause of the fire continues.