Iowa City church burns in weekend fire

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Pastor suspects lightning but cause is being investigated

Broken windows and siding are among the rubble left at the church in Iowa City on Monday after a fire destroyed the church early Saturday. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Rubble is still smoking Monday at the Iowa City Church near Iowa City. The church is considered a total loss after a fire on Saturday. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

A burnt piece of wood casts the shadow of a cross Monday at the Iowa City Church near Iowa City. The church was burned down in a fire on Saturday and its leaders hope to soon have another location for future services. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

The West Branch Fire Department and the Iowa City Fire Department respond Saturday morning to a fire at the Iowa City Church, 4643 American Legion Road. (Town of Iowa City)

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Church on American Legion Road, “completely engulfed in flames and smoke” early Saturday, is looking for a place to hold services after being declared a total loss.

The cause of the fire is unknown, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said Monday. “It is standard practice for the (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) to investigate a fire involving a church and the primary objective at this stage is to determine the cause,” says a press release.

The Johnson County Joint Emergency Communications Center received a call Saturday at 4:22 a.m. regarding a structure fire at 4643 American Legion Road.

The West Branch Fire Department and the Iowa City Fire Department responded to the fire on the East Side near Iowa City, as did the Iowa City Police Department and the County Sheriff’s Office. of Johnson. The fire was within the jurisdiction of West Branch.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze after several hours due to the size of the building and poor weather in the area, the sheriff’s office said.

The state fire marshal’s office and the sheriff’s office do not yet have a damage cost estimate. There are no casualties.

The church will adapt

Senior Pastor Tom Steele received a phone call early Saturday while on vacation. Steele, who has served as a pastor at the church in Iowa City for 17 years, said hearing the news was surreal.

“Your typical shock and trying to make it clear that something you were so associated with is gone. How sudden it was and how it happened,” Steele said.

“Please pray for our church,” the church said in a Facebook post on Saturday morning. Iowa City Church, 4643 American Legion Road, is a nondenominational Christian church.

Steele said he would be shocked if the cause of the fire was anything other than lightning. A strong storm with heavy rain and lightning passed through the area on Saturday morning.

The church has served the community for more than 30 years, Steele said, adding that the building was constructed in 1991. Steele said work has been done on the building over the years, including recently.

The church hopes to find an alternative meeting place and is working to narrow down the options. Steele said the hope is to have a more solid plan in the coming weeks.

Steele said many churches in the area have approached him to offer building space and resources. Steele added that it was humbling to have so many pastors and community members reaching out to him in recent days.

“I just got overwhelmed with so many people offering space,” Steele said. “We have a lot of options to choose from.”

Steele said he was optimistic about the future as the church adjusts to the situation and how best to serve the community.

“I’m just very lucky that God granted us, even in the midst of what seems like a tragedy,” Steele said.

Anyone interested in donating to Iowa City Church can do so online at iowacitychurch.org/support-us. Updated information on next steps will be posted on the church’s Facebook page.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; [email protected]

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