ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A fire broke out at a Rockford church, and lightning is believed to be the blame.
St. James is the oldest catholic church in the city. It was built in 1886. According to fire officials, it’s design caused problems for crews trying to put out the flames.
The Rockford Fire Department responded to a structure fire at 428 N. Second Street. That’s where the St. James Catholic Church sits. District Chief for the department, Will Pederson, says fire crews got the call around 6:45 a.m.
“Our first units on the scene did report some smoke being seen from the roof area and the incident did escalate to a working structure fire. It required a lot of firefighters and units to respond to this incident to bring it under control,” he adds.
The fire was put out within an hour, but Pederson says the footprint of the church made it difficult for firefighters to get to the source of the flames.
Pederson says, “It’s just a long distance for firefighters to have to travel. So by the time they were able to access up into the attic space, and actually see what was happening and going on up there, conditions had changed enough that we had to pull the firefighters back out.”
Three firefighters were injured while trying to evacuate. Two of them have been sent home from the hospital, while the third will be kept overnight. All of them are expected to be okay.
Crews remained on scene throughout the day to keep an eye on the building. Officials say the fire did about $3 million in damage.
“Essentially the entire structure did suffer either fire damage or other damage that was created by firefighters doing the operations we needed to do to stabilize the incident,” explains Pederson.
St. James says you can expect announcements from the parish office soon regarding new mass arrangements.
The official cause of the fire is still under investigation.