Firefighters say $200,000 in damage done to Plain Township church.
PLAIN TWP. Sunday services at Cathedral of Life will have to move temporarily after fire ripped through the church Wednesday morning.
Church services, which normally bring anywhere between 600 and 800 worshipers on a Sunday, will be need to happen somewhere else, said Pastor Dana Gammill as he watched restoration crews survey the damage Wednesday afternoon. He added that he expects to see about 2,000 people in the church on Easter.
An alarm summoned township firefighters around 7:30 a.m. to the church at 4111 38th St. NW, said Investigator Scott Kelly of the Plain Township Fire Department.
"Medic 3 arrived to find smoke coming from the east side of the building," Kelly said, adding that Jackson Township and North Canton firefighters were called to help at the scene.
No one was inside the two-story structure as fire tore through six rooms — three on the first floor, three on the second, said Plain Fire Chief Chuck Shalenberger.
Firefighters, who also used ladder trucks, were able to keep the fire from spreading elsewhere along the 26,400 square feet that make up the classrooms stretching out from the 12,000-square-foot sanctuary.
Stark County Sheriff's deputies blocked 38th Street NW at Whipple Avenue NW and Guilford Street NW. Some drivers tried to get through, driving over the firefighters' hoses. Stark County Sheriff's deputies were called because "of problems with traffic," the fire chief said.
Trucks from the Stark County Engineer's Office arrived to spread salt on the ice-covered roadway. The temperature at the time was 17 degrees at the Akron-Canton Airport with winds out of the west at 13 mph, resulting in a wind-chill of just 3 degrees above zero, the National Weather Service website shows.
But the cold didn't affect the water lines, Shalenberger said.
The cause remained undetermined and under investigation later Tuesday afternoon, Kelly said. He said no foul play was suspected.
Investigators believe "some type of event happened between the two floors" that may have caused the fire, Kelly said. He said it could have been an electrical issue, but added that the investigation was ongoing.
Church services and other functions will be temporarily disrupted until the damage is repaired, Shalenberger said.
"The sanctuary wasn't damaged, but I don't know if they're going to get all the power and heat restored to the building," he said. "They may have to seek a temporary facility."
Gammill agreed, adding that he's not sure where services will take place. The pastor said several other church leaders have called to offer assistance.
"We are very grateful to them, very grateful to the fire departments and grateful to the Lord that nobody was hurt," he said. "We appreciate the prayers of the community."
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