Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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Fire renders EC church unusable

Cause not yet determined; firefighters battle through storms

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    A fire Thursday morning caused $300,000 damage to Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ on Moholt Drive. The portion of the church containing offices, fellowship hall and kitchen was destroyed.

    Staff photo by Dan Reiland
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    Eau Claire firefighter Andrew Elbert carries the baptismal font out of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ. Firefighters worked a salvaging detail after the fire was extinguished. The chapel portion of the church building sustained smoke damage but was spared from fire damage.

    Staff photo by Dan Reiland
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Fire early Thursday destroyed one section of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ on Eau Claire’s west side and caused about $300,000 in damage.

The fire at the church at 2010 Moholt Drive was reported at 1:20 a.m., Eau Claire Fire Department Battalion Chief Matt Jaggar said.

Flames and smoke were visible from one section of the church when firefighters arrived.

“Partial structure collapse from the fire through the roof came immediately upon our arrival,” Jaggar said.

No one was in the church at the time of the fire.

The roof collapse caused firefighters to use defensive operations, meaning the fire was fought from outside the building. No firefighters were sent inside, Jaggar said. The fire was brought under control within an hour, he said.

The older portion of the church, which contained offices, the kitchen and the fellowship hall, were destroyed. The portion of the church that contains the chapel sustained smoke damage but no fire damage, Jaggar said.

The chapel portion of the church was protected by a fire wall, “which did its job,” he said.

The Rev. David Huber, Plymouth pastor, could not be reached for comment but told members of his congregation through a Facebook post that the building is not usable.

“With Jesus, there is always a rising from the ashes, life after death, and new life to be found wherever God’s people are gathered,” Huber said in the posting. “God has carried us through many storms before, and will do so again so that the ministry of Plymouth continues.”

Because the roof collapsed in one portion of the building, a few firefighters were expected to remain on the scene throughout the day Thursday to check for hot spots.

“Every once in a while we can get a flare up from an ember,” Jaggar said. “We want to at least protect the chapel area from further damage.”

At the height of the blaze, seven trucks and other Fire Department vehicles, along with 18 firefighters, were used.

The origin and cause of the fire are under investigation by fire Inspector Gary Puljas. 

Firefighters were involved with the church fire during the teeth of the storms that passed through the area Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Firefighters were in constant contact with the Eau Claire Emergency Communications Center for reports of lightning, Jaggar said.

“We were hindered by the frequent lightning in the area,” he said. “Sometimes we had to get people off of ladders because of lightning. That limits your options.”

Contact: 715-833-9207, dan.holtz@ecpc.com


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