Finland Church Destroyed After Apparent Lightning Strike

Posted at: 07/06/2013 9:42 PM | Updated at: 07/07/2013 10:34 PM
By: LAURIE STRIBLING
lstribling@wdio.com

A church in Finland is destroyed after a fire Saturday night.

Finland Fire Chief Pete Walsh said the call came in just before 9 p.m. at the Zion Lutheran Church. He said the blaze was most likely caused by a lightning strike.

"I've been on the fire department for 35 plus years and it was the hottest fire I've ever had to deal with," Walsh said.

Walsh said crews were on the scene for about 10 hours. He said it was hard to put out because it was trapped in the ceiling.

The building is a total loss, but church members still worshiped Sunday down the street at the Clair Nelson Center.

"The church is not the building; it's the people," Church Treasurer Karsten Hogenson said. "We're assuming the church will continue even though the building, as we knew it, is gone."

Hogenson said the church will most likely be rebuilt, but it may be a little smaller.

"The cost of building something new is far more than the cost when this was built," Hogenson said. "We're assuming we'll be able to rebuild, but it will be different. It won't be the same building anymore."

The church was established in 1957 with the help of Jim Sinderman's family.

"It was really hard to see it go," Sinderman said.

Sinderman not only attends the church, but he also fought the blaze as a firefighter.

"I've seen a lot of weddings in this church, a lot of funerals in this church," Sinderman said. "Finland is a strong, tight-knit community."

Many people visited the ruins of the church Sunday morning. Firefighters are allowing people to take a brick home as a memento.

Five other departments helped respond to the blaze. No one was injured and the official cause is still under investigation.

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