By MAX FILBY
Ash and debris covered the inside of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on Thursday after fire damaged the ceiling of the Findlay building.
The fire, suspected to have been electrical, started in the ceiling of the sanctuary of the church at 218 E. Sandusky St. Debris then fell from the ceiling, catching areas of the ground floor on fire.
“We usually just pull together when something like this happens,” the Rev. Gregory Creech said. “We get a lot of neighborly support from everyone.”
No damage estimate was available Thursday, both Creech and the Findlay Fire Department said.
Firefighters suspect the blaze was started by a can light located in the ceiling, said Matt Pickett, the Fire Department’s investigator.
“We were alerted early enough that there’s only minimal damage, but obviously there’s some smoke and water damage, too,” Pickett said.
Firefighters responded to an alarm in the sanctuary at about 9 a.m.
Damaged were the sanctuary’s ceiling, the roof of the church and classrooms in the basement of the building, Creech said.
The damage will force the church congregation to gather for its 9:30 a.m. Sunday worship at Brugeman Lodge at Riverbend Recreation Area this week, and possibly at other locations in the future until repairs can be made.
Creech said the congregation has moved before, during major renovations of the sanctuary in 1997. The church was built in 1912.
“We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again,” he said. “All that matters is we’re worshiping somewhere.”
One employee was in the church when the fire alarm sounded and she was able to leave the building unharmed. Kelly Donat, the church’s office manager, was in the building’s front office when the alarm went off, and said she didn’t initially smell any smoke.
Donat immediately left the building and heard the sirens of firefighters responding shortly after.
The church has never dealt with a fire before, but has had significant damage from floodwaters over the years, Creech said.
Creech expects damage estimates to be coming soon from the church’s contractor and insurance adjuster. Creech said he expects insurance will cover most of the damage.
Church members were notified about the fire in an email sent late Thursday morning. The email said “considerable cleanup will need to be done in the days ahead, as well as repairs to the ceiling, etc.”
Creech said he expects the church carpet will have be removed, and hymn books cleaned or replaced.
He was unsure Thursday where or when the church will hold some of its other weekly gatherings, including Wednesday dinners.
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