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Accident blamed for church fire

Fire District 7 officials are crediting quick thinking and a lucky chance with saving the out-building of a Sedgwick Road church from complete destruction Friday afternoon.

According to fire district reports, roofers had been using a torch-down method to repair the Evergreen Baptist Church’s out-building roof earlier in the day. When they finished, they left behind a work trailer at the deserted church site. When a manager for the roofing company returned to pick up the trailer shortly before 2:45 p.m., he noticed smoke seeping from the repair area.

By the time he was done calling 911, the roof had erupted into flames.

“When (the first firefighters) got there, there were six-foot flames leaping out of the roof,” said fire district spokeswoman Lisa Kirkemo.

The fire team quickly punched a hole through the side of the roof shingling and poured water on the blaze. Kirkemo said if they had chosen to wait for more personnel or chosen a different method of combating the fire, the building likely would have burned down.

Instead, the total damage was estimated at $30,243 for structure, $15,121 for contents. No one was injured in the blaze.

This is the second fire in the last five months that stemmed from torch-based roofing repair. The last fire, which took place in September, nearly destroyed the Hi-Joy Bowl’s roof and forced portions of the establishment to close for more than a week.

Kirkemo said many commercial businesses — particularly those with flat roofs — use the tar-based sealant which must be applied and repaired using a torch. She said fires are usually caused by worker error. In the church fire, it appears the torches caused some material under the roofing to start smoldering, which later became open flames.

“It can sit there for awhile and then all of a sudden go up,” Kirkemo said.

It is unclear whether negligence was to blame for Friday’s blaze. Kirkemo said it is up to the church to complain or take action against the roofing company if the members suspect malpractice. So far as the fire district is concerned, the fire has been ruled accidental.

“This tends to be an industry problem instead of a fire department problem,” Kirkemo said.

No church representatives were available for comment.

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