UPDATE: 'Thank God it didn't completely go up'

UPDATE: 'Thank God it didn't completely go up'

UPDATE, 7 p.m.:

CHAMPAIGN — The rector of Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church was heartbroken yet thankful Tuesday evening in the wake of a two-alarm fire that broke out in the attic of the rectory at the downtown Champaign church, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

"Of course, it's deeply shocking and deeply heartbreaking," the Rev. Beth Maynard said. "My first reaction right now is gratitude to the first responders who came so quickly and knocked it down very rapidly and gratitude to God for giving us a congregation that has the fortitude to get through something like this."

No one was injured and the facility survived the blaze. On Tuesday night, Maynard said it was too early to determine whether services would be affected.

"The area where we have services, as far as I know, was not affected at all," said Maynard, who has served the church for nearly four years. "But we'll have to go through it to see."

Champaign Deputy Fire Marshal Randy Smith said firefighters were called to the church at 208 W. University Ave. at 4:51 p.m. by a passer-by.

"Once the firefighters arrived, we saw an active fire in a third-floor attic," Smith said. "Fire was showing from that location, and shortly thereafter the fire did go through the roof."

Smith said a second alarm was issued, so the Urbana Fire Department soon joined Champaign firefighters.

Tim Valentine, the church's janitor, was inside the church when the blaze first broke out.

"I went inside to borrow some chemicals," Valentine said. "When I came out of the bathroom, I smelled smoke. So I went outside. As soon as I came out the door, I could see the smoke on the other side."

Valentine was not injured.

Smith said early Tuesday evening that no cause had yet been determined. He said he expected investigators to remain at the scene much of the night to search for a cause.

One of the first people to see the blaze was Taylor Battle of Savoy.

"At first I was shocked at what I was seeing," Battle said. "There was smoke coming out of one part of the building. It started to flame up like a bonfire. It kept growing and growing. Luckily, the brave men and women from the Champaign and Urbana fire departments got it under control and put it out.

"I grew up in Champaign and love this church. It is beautiful on the inside and beautiful on the outside. Seeing the flames coming out of this building was a dagger to my heart. I hate to see something like this go up in flames. Thank God it didn't completely go up."

As of 5:30 p.m., firefighters were still inside the building checking for hot spots, and no injuries were reported, Smith said.

State Street was blocked off between Church Street and University Avenue, as was a portion of Park Avenue.

Maynard said she was aware of only one other fire at Emmanuel Memorial.

"We had a minor fire on our altar a couple years ago," she said.

* * * * *

Original story, published 5:20 p.m. Jan. 23:

CHAMPAIGN — Firefighters are on the scene of a blaze at Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church in downtown Champaign.

Deputy Fire Marshal Randy Smith said they received the call 4:51 p.m. Tuesday from a passer-by.

"Once the firefighters arrived, we saw fire in a third-floor attic," Smith said.

Smith said firefighters called for a second alarm, which brought the Urbana Fire Department to the scene.

As of 5:30 p.m., firefighters were still inside the building checking for hot spots, and no injuries were reported, Smith said.

State Street was blocked off between Church Street and University Avenue, as was a portion of Park Avenue.

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whatithink wrote on January 24, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Should thank the firefighters, not some imaginary being.  The firefighters risk their lives everyday and they kept it from burning down.