Lightning ignites church roof
Immanuel Lutheran Church in Fairfield caught fire late Wednesday night after lightning struck its roof.
The Fairfield Fire Department responded to the fire at 11:35 p.m. Firefighters used water to extinguish the blaze, which originated in the shingles and sheeting on the roof. The Fairfield Fire Department sent 17 firefighters to the scene and the Libertyville Fire Department sent 12. Firefighters remained on the scene until about 5 a.m. this morning.
No injuries were reported from the fire.
Mark Brase, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, learned of the fire just before midnight through a phone call he received from a local firefighter.
“I didn’t know it was hit by lightning but I suspected that’s what it was,” he said. “When I got here, that’s what the firemen were telling me.”
Brase said the fire was still burning when he arrived.
“There were only a few times when we actually saw flames,” he said.
The fire affected the tall, slanted roof of the sanctuary on the west side of the building.
Brase said he stayed at the site until about 3:30 a.m. By then, the firefighters had contained the fire. Brase didn’t stay away long. He returned to the church at 6 a.m. By then, the firefighters had left the scene.
Brase said the sanctuary roof suffered the brunt of the damage. The interior of the sanctuary also suffered water damage. A smoke smell inside the building was still present and strong at 9 a.m. this morning. Brase and other volunteers opened windows in an effort to remove the smell as much as possible. Brase said he didn’t know how easily the smoke smell could be removed.
Brase said the insurance company has to survey the damage first before he has an idea of how long it will take to fix up the church. Brase received word this morning not to touch anything in the sanctuary until the insurance company had a chance to examine it.
The lightning strike cut power to the church. Brase said because of the loss of electricity and the smoke smell, the church has canceled preschool and prekindergarten today and tomorrow.
Immanuel Lutheran Church does not have a lightning rod.
Brase said residents can assist the church through prayers. He said since the church has insurance it is probably in good shape financially.
The rain prevented the fire from getting out of hand, but the lightning was another story.
“The lightning was a detriment,” Brase said.
Firefighters took an aerial truck to the scene to put out the fire. However, the aerial truck had to come down from its perch a few times when a lightning storm was passing over.