Fire strikes Good Shepherd Church

Blaze began on roof, causing substantial damage

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

A fire believed to have been started on the roof of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 611 Randolph St., on Sept. 5 has caused substantial damage to the structure and displaced the congregation for the foreseeable future.

Pastor Kathy Nolte said in a phone interview that the fire broke out at about 12:40 p.m. while a work crew was renovating the roof of the building.

No one was injured, but the damage is significant, she said.

"People in the office could smell something," Nolte said. "The office has an electrical panel and (it) started popping."

The two people in the office went outside and saw the fire on the roof, she said.

It took about an hour for the blaze to be extinguished, and the fire department determined that it originated on the roof and spread to the attic, Nolte said.

"We've got a big loss but it could have been much worse," she said.

The roofers were working with a torch on the structure, but it's unclear exactly how the building caught on fire.

Nolte said that a section of the roof must be replaced and other areas of the building that were not burned suffered extensive smoke and water damage.

"As far as damage [goes] the water went everywhere," she said. "A portion of the ceiling in the sanctuary space fell from the weight of the water, and you can see the char marks where smoke was coming out from the light fixtures."

No other buildings were damaged in the fire, she said.

She expects it to take about eight months to a year for the structure to be repaired.

Materials, such as photos, financial records, banners and Christmas pageant costumes, that were stored in a room in the Sunday school were also damaged, Nolte said.

She said "the outpouring of support from the community has been uplifting and heartwarming."

The congregation will meet this Sunday at the church at 10 a.m. to pray and sing hymnals before making a three-block pilgrimage to Euclid Avenue Methodist Church, 405 S. Euclid Ave., Nolte said.

"We will take a bowl from the baptismal font and then our communion vessels and our hymnals," she said.

The congregation will hold its weekly service at Euclid but the following Sunday and for the weeks to come it will hold services at First Baptist Church, 820 Ontario St.

She said it is still uncertain how much it will cost to fix the damage and how much insurance will cover. "It will take a certain amount of time to know what needs to be redone," she said.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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Pat Koko  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 10:31 PM

This is so sad. The congregation at Good Shepherd have been such strong community supporters. I wish them well with recovery. I wonder if there are any statistics about how many fires are started by roofers?

Teresa Powell  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 5:49 PM

I am so sorry to hear this news. This church makes wonderful contributions to Oak Park and to our neighbors in Austin. I am glad they have found a temporary home. When Unity Temple was offered a home by United Lutheran during our renovations, both congregations were enriched by the sharing. May the same be true as you meet elsewhere and rebuild.

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