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Lightning Strikes Church in Piedmont; Causes Fire

Updated: July 12, 2018 05:25 PM

A church in the Piedmont neighborhood of Duluth suffered an estimated $75,000 in damage in a fire caused by a lightning strike.

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The Duluth Fire Department says it happened at Christ Lutheran Church on Ensign Street, around 5:30 a.m. Thursday. Carolyn Lofald, the president of the church, heard the strike from her home a few blocks away.

"Within five minutes, we heard the fire trucks. I thought, please Lord, take care over whoever that's going to. Then, five minutes later I was getting a phone call. And another five minutes, I was here," she recalled.

Crews arrived and found heavy fire around a cross cupola structure on the roof of the structure. The department says fire hose were immediately used to knock down the flames. The fire also extended to the roof area, but was quickly contained and stopped. 

There is water and fire and smoke damage to the interior of the church, but authorities say it was kept to a minimum with salvage operations. 

"The fire department is absolutely fantastic. They went in and covered up our altar and grabbed the bible and covered it in plastic, and presented it to us at the door," Lofald added.

The Duluth Fire Marshal's office believes a lightning strike to the church started the fire. A passerby ended up calling it in, according to church members. They do want to thank that person.

The department says damages to the structure are estimated at $50,000 and damages to contents are estimated at $25,000. 

No injuries were reported. "It's not the people, it's not our congregation. It's not anything we can't repair. We're fully blessed for that," added Jim Carlson. "We have great insurance."

Crews were already on site putting up tarps and stabilizing the cupola. Multiple contractors responded right away.

Members of the congregation were stopping by to check out the damage and offer their support. Jerry Guddeck is the son of two charter members of the church. "I don't know how I'm feeling, kind of a shock. We're just lucky there's not more damage to the church."

Peace Lutheran Church has offered their church for services on Sunday if needed, Lofald said. Other churches have offered help as well. It's unclear when they'll be able to hold a service again in Christ Lutheran.

Christ Lutheran Church is also the polling place for the City of Duluth's 24th precinct.  A primary election is scheduled for August 14.

Copyright 2018 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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