What started out as a nonemergency call to investigate an electrical odor quickly escalated when firefighters found a working fire at First Baptist Church in Washington Friday, May 30.
A storm was making its way through Washington, with several rounds of lightning. Chris Ging, the church secretary, heard a strike nearby and when her computer stopped working she began to investigate.
Though she smelled something odd, she didn’t recognize the smell of burning lumber.
Fire crews were dispatched just before 5 p.m. to investigate the odor, according to Washington Fire Chief Bill Halmich.
Upon arrival, smoke could be seen from the west side of the church’s congregation hall.
“Due to the height of the ceiling inside the church, there was no reasonable way to access that area,” Halmich said. He then ordered the ladder truck crew to cut through the roof where the smoke and fire were located.
Where lightning had struck, it ignited the lumber, sheeting and insulation.
“The fact that she caught it while it was an odor was significant in reducing the damage,” Halmich said.
Crews were able to quickly contain the fire. Damage was confined to the roof of the church and there were no injuries.
A total of three people were inside the church when the fire began.
“It’s very fortunate that she decided to investigate because their fire alarm system wasn’t working,” Halmich said. “They were having trouble with their Internet line and the fire system was down.”
Ameren officials stood by while the electric was turned off and firefighters investigated electrical panels and looked for tripped breakers.
A fire crew from Marthasville was on standby because other Washington trucks were on the scene of an auto accident.
A rescue squad was on scene, as well as three pumpers, the ladder truck and a Washington EMS crew, which is protocol when firefighters are on a roof.
Crews were on the scene until 6:45 p.m.