The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 31, 2012

Church fire breaks out just before Sunday morning services

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

— MOUNT PLEASANT MILLS — As parishoners were getting ready to attend Sunday morning services at Arbogast Lutheran Church, a fire broke out, gutting the back half of the 151-year-old country church.

“The first call (to emergency crews) was made at 8:42 a.m., which was lucky because we were scheduled to start services at 9:30,” said Nate Yerg, vice president of the church council and head of the church’s building and maintenance committee.

Yerg said the fire was most likely started by the furnace and was first reported by a passerby, who at first thought the smoke coming from the church was snow blowing off the building’s roof. When he realized what was happening, the passerby ran to Yerg’s brother-in-law’s house nearby and called 911.

While crews were able to put out the fire within an hour of arriving, the building suffered extensive structural, smoke and water damage, Yerg said. However, many important items were able to be recovered from the church.

“We got most of our main kitchen equipment out and upstairs we got most of our documents out,” Yerg said.

Yerg said the fire was not suspicious and most likely won’t be investigated.

The congregation of 50 people will most likely have to worship with a nearby sister church, Leininger’s Lutheran Church, Yerg said.

The financial damage wrought by the blaze isn’t known yet, but the building was insured and adjusters will be checking out the damage in the next couple of days, Yerg said.

The congregation plans on rebuilding the church, Yerg said.

“We will rebuild,” he said. “We’re a strong congregation.”

The outpouring of support from fellow churches has been overwhelming, Yerg said.

“Churches all over the area are offering us facilities,” he said. “It’s amazing.”