A heartbroken pastor watched firefighters battle fire and smoke as his historic church went up in flames.
The two-alarm fire broke out about 2:20 a.m. Thursday at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in the 700 block of Benton Boulevard.
When crews arrived, heavy smoke and flames coming from the church filled the night sky.
About 30 firefighters attacked the fire from inside, but the conditions forced them out. After breaking windows to relieve pressure in the building, firefighters were able to get back inside to put out the fire.
The church is about 90 years old. Pastor Brad Zerkel, who has been leading worship at the church for 11 years, watched in disbelief.
"It's a total loss. It's charred. The water damaged the pews and the carpet. It'll have to be totally redone," he said. "I'm glad it's just walls, but at the same time, in those walls, there's a lot of my time invested and people's time coming together in Lord's grace there."
Zerkel said they will hold services Sunday in the basement of their add-on building.
"I'm thankful that we have the memories," he said. "The building will be replaced. A lot of baptisms, funerals, weddings. We just had a funeral last Thursday. People's lives were inside that building. Thankfully no lives were in the building. We thank God for that."
The pastor said the church has been refurbished many times over the years, and in that time, he has dealt with break-ins and vandalism, but this was his first fire. He said the church will go on.
"Christ couldn't be kept in the grave and this church is going to keep going on because the people are strong, our Lord is strong," Zerkel said. "We'll put this in the past. Hopefully good will come out of this."
Since there was an intrusion call at the church right before the fire was reported, the fire is still under investigation.
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