Digital Access

Digital Access
Access daily-chronicle.com from all your digital devices and receive breaking news and updates from around the area.

Home Delivery

Home Delivery
Local news, prep sports, Chicago sports, local and regional entertainment, business, home and lifestyle, food, classified and more!

Text Alerts

Text Alerts
Choose your news! Select the text alerts you want to receive: breaking news, prep sports scores, school closings, weather, and more.

Email Newsletters

Email Newsletters
We'll deliver news & updates to your inbox. Sign up for free e-newsletters today.
News

Fire destroys church Explosion hurts two Sycamore firefighters

Firefighters spray water on a neighboring house to prevent the spread of a fire that gutted the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John, 327 S. Main St., in Sycamore on Monday. Chronicle photo HOLLY LUNDH
Firefighters spray water on a neighboring house to prevent the spread of a fire that gutted the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John, 327 S. Main St., in Sycamore on Monday. Chronicle photo HOLLY LUNDH

SYCAMORE - A fire ravaged a church and left two firefighters injured Monday evening, a day after another fire at the building forced the cancellation of a church service. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John, 327 S. Main St., was "totally destroyed" by the blaze, said Lt. Duane Prather of the Sycamore Fire Department. Damage to the structure is expected to exceed $2 million. Two full-time Sycamore firefighters were injured when their fire crew attempted to open a southwest entrance to the church, Sycamore Fire Chief William Riddle said. The result was an explosion blowing several firefighters across an alley and sending flames and debris high into the air. "This was a backdraft situation that resulted in an explosion," Riddle said, adding that the fire might have gone unnoticed for some time. "This is a huge fire," he said. "It's unusual to see one on that scale very often." Brad Belanger, a three-year veteran with the department, suffered first- and second-degree burns on his hands and was treated and released from Kishwaukee Community Hospital in DeKalb. Firefighter Bill Reynolds, a two-year veteran with the department, suffered a broken leg when debris from the church's stained-glass window frame and roof crashed down on him. His injuries were severe enough to require him being airlifted to St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford for surgery that lasted until this morning. A hospital official declined to release information about Reynolds' status. Another firefighter in the alley at the time of the explosion was launched into a nearby garage but walked away uninjured, Riddle said. Fire trucks from 11 communities filled Ottawa, High and Main streets attempting to extinguish the flames. Sycamore firefighters first responded to calls about smoke coming from the building around 4:45 p.m., Riddle said. By 5:30 p.m., more than 100 people lined the sidewalks and saw a recent addition to the church collapse. It took about six hours to extinguish the blaze, which left the building gutted, Riddle said. The Monday evening fire followed a Sunday morning fire in the 65-year-old church's basement during a service. The Rev. Don Phelps, who also is the chaplain and a paid-on-call firefighter for the Sycamore Fire Department, evacuated the church and worked with a firefighter in the congregation, Lt. Tal Hickey, to control the fire until the fire department arrived and extinguished the blaze. No one was injured, and property damage was estimated at $1,000. The cause of the fire was later determined to be a malfunction of the church's pipe organ. Riddle said the cause of the Monday evening fire is under investigation and it is unclear whether there is a direct relationship between the two fires. "We don't know if it's related or unrelated yet," he said. A state fire marshal will join Sycamore fire investigators to determine the origin of the blaze. Firefighters are expected to be at the site today to knock down some of the structure and extinguish any still-smoldering rubble. Paul L. Mikolajczyk can be reached at pmikolajczyk@pulitzer.net.

Loading more