Fire damages Richmond, Va., church

A two-alarm fire that broke out about 5:15 p.m. Easter day (April 20) at Trinity Lutheran Church, Richmond, Va., caused limited destruction but significant smoke and water damage. No injuries were reported.

A local firefighting unit responds to the April 20 two-alarm fire at Trinity Lutheran Church, Richmond, Va., that caused no injuries, but resulted in limited destruction and considerable smoke and water damage. (WTVR.com)

A local firefighting unit responds to the April 20 two-alarm fire at Trinity Lutheran Church, Richmond, Va., that caused no injuries, but resulted in limited destruction and considerable smoke and water damage. (WTVR.com)

Local fire-fighting units extinguished the two-alarm fire within about an hour after it started. At the time this story was written, the cause of the fire was still under investigation, it was reported by Richmond television station WTVR.

The fire apparently started in the narthex, causing heaviest damage in an older wing of the building that also houses the sanctuary and the congregation’s preschool. Alarms triggered fire doors to close off a newer wing, where smoke and water damage is less severe. That wing contains the fellowship hall where Trinity holds contemporary worship, a kitchen and administrative offices.

According to an April 21 update on the church’s website, the property was not accessible, due to “the ongoing investigation and unsafe conditions”; cleanup had begun and would be “coordinated by our professional contractor”; the week’s church activities were cancelled; plans were being made for “an alternate worship schedule and/or location”; and phone service to the church was down. The update also thanked readers for prayers.

The Rev. Michael Pottschmidt, Trinity’s senior pastor, told Reporter that the church’s insurance is expected to cover restoration from the fire, although the full cost of damages is still being determined.

Pottschmidt indicated that cleanup and restoration efforts began April 21 and that “portions of the building will reopen gradually as cleanup continues and power is restored.”

He said that Sunday worship on April 27 will take place in the auditorium of a local high school. “We anticipate resuming services in our fellowship hall on Sunday, May 4,” he continued, “and Sunday-school classrooms are being reconfigured so our preschool can resume operations as soon as possible.”

“Even as we work to restore and rebuild the sections of the building affected by the fire, we recommit ourselves to the work of ministry,” Pottschmidt said. “Our call to gather, grow and go in the name and for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ remains. Easter’s message of hope and new life sustains and encourages us. Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ, and nothing will diminish our joy as we proclaim, ‘Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!’ ”

Deaconess Sally Hiller, the LCMS Southeastern District’s director for Congregational Outreach and District Operations, emailed an April 21 report on the fire in which she noted the need for prayers on behalf of Trinity Lutheran Church. “Prayers of thanksgiving that no one was hurt in this blaze and that the ministry may continue — even with the interruptions of cleaning and rebuilding. Prayers for the congregational leadership as they work in new ways in these next days. And prayers that in the midst of it all, God will use this moment for the congregation and its building to be witness to the hope of the Resurrection in the community.”

Trinity has 1,053 baptized members.

Posted April 23, 2014

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