Just four minutes after being dispatched, firefighters from nearby Station 61 arrived to confirm the Children’s ministry building at the Westside United Methodist Church was fully involved. With flames breaching the roof, they started to fight the fire from outside before they transitioned into the building.
Despite aggressive and efficient fire attack, the fire persisted since it was fed by a natural gas line that was likely ruptured when an HVAC unit collapsed into the building from the roof. Firefighters also contended with a down power line. Within thirty minutes, firefighters contained the fire and prevented it from spreading to the main church building, as well as the fence and apartments located behind the church property. Though two windows of the main church were blown out due to radiant heat, there was minimal damage to the sanctuary and firefighters quickly ventilated smoke. Firefighters spent another half hour mopping up hot spots to prevent the fire from rekindling.
Fire investigators will be at the site all day digging through charred debris, evaluating burn patterns and analyzing material evidence to determine where and how this fire started. Damage is estimated at $150,000. Due to the age of the building, constructed of cinder block and wood, there was no fire sprinkler system and no commercial fire alarm which likely increased the fire volume burning undetected before being spotted by a passerby.
When a fire sprinkler system is present, the likelihood of injuries and costly damage is dramatically reduced. More information about residential and commercial fire sprinkler systems can be found at: http://www.tvfr.com/index.aspx?nid=144.