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Norton church damaged in fire

4:21 PM, Oct 4, 2012   |    comments
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NORTON -- Fire crews are investigating a large fire that damaged a church overnight Thursday in Norton.

Crews were called to The Father's House Church on Wadsworth Road about 11:30 p.m. Several units from surrounding communities were also dispatched to help fight the flames.

"The building's lumber. Pews you can replace, but human beings, we just wanted to make sure nobody got hurt," said Associate Pastor Lee Hance.

A veteran fire fighter was injured in a stairwell when the roof collapsed on him, according to crews at the scene. He was taken to the hospital, but is expected to be okay.

No one was inside the church when a churchgoer noticed flames from the parking lot around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. It took firefighters more than 10 minutes to respond.

"Our efforts to do anything were pretty hampered," said Norton Fire Chief Mike Schultz.

Schultz says two failed fire levies forced layoffs in March, including no crews at the station from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

"It makes a huge difference going from a full staffed station to depending on people to come from home, and relying on other departments. The time delay killed us," said Schultz. Thirteen departments assisted in the fight.

The chief says a similar fire broke out at the much bigger Grace Brethren Church in January 2011. "With a full staffed crew, we saved that building. This one tonight, because of staffing cuts we lost," he said.

Voters will get a third chance to pass a four-year, 4.6 mill levy for the fire department in November. The levy would cost homeowners about $140 a year on a $100,000 property.

If nothing else, church members say they hope this could part of a bigger plan.

"Boy we need to pass that levy. Everybody in Norton needs to vote for that levy," said Hance. "The Norton Fire Department is tremendous."

"You know, we'll come roaring back. We intend to get things all settled up, and to rebuild," he said. The church plans to use insurance funds.

Hance says the community support has already been overwhelming. "The phone has never stopped ringing this morning."

Grace Brethren Church, who knows the congregation's pain, even offered their facility for services this weekend.

The pastor of Father's House told Channel 3 electrical work was being done on the church. Fire officials say the cause is still undetermined.

WKYC-TV

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