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Published: Wednesday, 7/9/2003

Church fire blamed on hot roofing materials

Hot roofing materials left unattended were being blamed last night for a fire that caused “substantial” damage to a West Toledo church, fire officials said.

Firefighters were called to Harvest Community United Brethren in Christ Church, 3708 West Laskey Rd., shortly after 7:35 p.m. and found heavy smoke billowing from a portion of the roof above the sanctuary where roofers earlier had been “doing hot work,” Battalion Fire Chief Luis Santiago said.

Fire crews had a difficult time getting to the blaze, the chief said, and weren't able to make substantial progress on putting it out until a second aerial truck was able to maneuver its boom below some adjacent trees in order to get closer to the triangular-shaped roof.

“It's devastating,” said Lisa Sheets of Lambertville, a member of the congregation who came to the church last night after getting a call about the fire from another member of the church. “I know God has a plan for us, and this is just a part of it, I guess.”

About 30 firefighters were needed to fight the blaze, Chief Santiago said, as were two additional engines and one additional truck that were called to the scene after firefighters arrived.

The Rev. Brad Wotring said the roof work was the first project being done as part of a renovation of the church, which he said has grown from about 30 people attending services when he arrived 18 months ago to about 180 people now.

“I guess we finally got our central air conditioning,” Mr. Wotring joked with a member of his congregation as they watched firefighters cut hole in the roof and spray water into the church's sanctuary.

The minister was joined by several dozen members of the congregation who gathered in a yard next to the church.

Though no official damage estimate was available last night, Mr. Wotring said the church is insured.

The name of the roofing company doing the work on the church was not immediately available.

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