Community reaches out to fire-damaged Clearfield church that has given so much

Mar 21 2013 - 7:27am

Images

Caution tape surrounds Clearfield Community Church, which caught on fire Tuesday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
A fire destroyed the western wing of the Clearfield Community Church at 500 E. 200 South on Tuesday, leaving the community shaken. Pictured here is a view looking into the sanctuary from the south side. (LORETTA PARK/Standard-Examiner)
Pastor John Parsley (right) talks with members of the congregation outside of Clearfield Community Church on Wednesday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Caution tape surrounds Clearfield Community Church, which caught on fire Tuesday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
A fire destroyed the western wing of the Clearfield Community Church at 500 E. 200 South on Tuesday, leaving the community shaken. Pictured here is a view looking into the sanctuary from the south side. (LORETTA PARK/Standard-Examiner)
Pastor John Parsley (right) talks with members of the congregation outside of Clearfield Community Church on Wednesday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)

CLEARFIELD -- Helping hands from the city and from many local church organizations are reaching out to provide aid and comfort to the members of the Clearfield Community Church following a Tuesday fire that heavily damaged their house of worship.

Pastor John Parsley said Wednesday he has received numerous offers from churches of all faiths, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as civic organizations, that want to help his congregation.

Parsley said the outpouring of help "is so sweet and precious to us."

"It's just brick and mortar," Parsley said. "The church is people. And no one was hurt."

Click here to see the fire.

Parsley said Wednesday afternoon the congregation of 150 will meet for at least the next six weeks on Sundays at 10 a.m. in the gymnasium of Wasatch Elementary School, 270 E. Center St., Clearfield.

Clearfield Mayor Don Wood said the city, like many other organizations, has offered to help the Clearfield Community Church, which has been a landmark in the city since the 1940s.

The church has opened its doors many times in the past, offering its facilities for community events, and has been a good neighbor, Wood said.

"Our church has offered to have one of their addiction support groups meet in our building," said Vicar Claudia Seiter with the St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

Don Bush has lived right behind the church for 57 years. "I see their flag flying every day to see which way the wind is blowing. I looked out this morning, and the flag is still flying at the community church."

The fire gutted two of the buildings that began as a barracks in Brigham City in the 1940s.

"Church members took it apart and hauled it in a trailer and built it on the 500 East site," Parsley said.

The church was chartered on Dec. 31, 1945, but it is uncertain when the actual building was placed on the lot, he said. In the 1950s, another section was built onto the barracks, adding a sanctuary and classrooms.

From 1978 to 1980, the sanctuary on the west side was added, which included several one-of-a-kind stained-glass windows depicting Bible scenes.

Wednesday morning what was visible of the sanctuary was mounds of burnt debris inside where worshippers once met. The west brick wall bowed out at the top. Colored glass shards, burnt bricks, torn roof shingles and bits of blackened wood littered the grass, sidewalk and parking lot.

The sanctuary is destroyed, as is the center building that was used as a lobby or foyer, Parsley said. But there is hope.

The east side, which was built in the 1950s was damaged, but Parsley said, "We think after some time (and repairs), we can get back in there."

Parsley said he had the opportunity to go inside Wednesday and saw that the office area was mostly smoke damage.

"The desks and books mostly were covered with black. My Bible was still open on my desk and was covered in black. Everything was just as I left it."

North Davis Agency Interim Fire Chief Mark Becraft said the fire started in the basement and tore through the building. The cause is under investigation.

Wednesday morning, Deputy State Fire Marshal Stan Robins and Cindy, an accelerant-sniffing dog, were at the scene, along with cleanup crews, firefighters, city workers and police.

Eight fire agencies from Davis and Weber counties, including Hill Air Force Base, fought the blaze Tuesday.

Becraft said the church did not have a sprinkler system in place.

The fire inside the church was so hot and intense when crews arrived on Tuesday they could not go in the building to fight it, Becraft said.

Church member Mel Enders, of Layton, was at the scene Wednesday morning, surveying the torched building.

"I can't put in words what a loss like that feels like," Enders said. "But we will be pressing forward."

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