Following is a summary of the update provided before services by Jon Kroehler (Building & Grounds Team Leader) on Sunday, August 13, regarding the fire on July 28; this represents our best understanding only two weeks after the fire, and is subject to change as we learn more.
The fire itself was contained to only the storage room off Fellowship Hall. Everything in that room was burned away, melted, or destroyed (the room’s walls will be entirely rebuilt). All of that humanmade material burning created heavy smoke that was distributed throughout the building via our air conditioning systems. Subsequently, a caustic soot was left behind on nearly everything, and an unpleasant smell of smoke permeates the building and everything in it. In addition, the firefighters had to cut three holes in the roof to let smoke escape and to understand the fire’s progress. Many, many gallons of water were used to put out the fire (water is now being removed with dehumidifiers).
The heavy soot means that every surface and object in the building will be either cleaned, sealed up and painted, or removed and replaced. Cleaning by professionals is feasible for hard surfaces like ceramic floor tile and glass. Walls will be cleaned, then sealed and painted to hold in any remaining smoke smell.
Porous objects and building materials such as ceiling tile, carpeting and pew cushions will most likely need to be replaced. Objects in the building will be inventoried, removed for cleaning, and stored. Certain items have already been removed by relevant restoration specialists, including AV equipment for our livestreaming, some musical instruments, and select precious fabric/fine art items.
While we are all anxious to know when we can move back in, it is too early to have a true project plan and estimated date. We will operate with a goal of returning to the building in one year.
The amount of restoration work is significant. Professionals will remove all contents of the building, clean and/or seal all surfaces, and then rebuild afresh.
There is good news. Our insurance policy is expected to cover the costs of the cleanup and the restoration. Insurance will also provide some coverage for replacing contents lost due to the various types of damage. Our policy also provides financial support for temporary needs, including rental of worship space, operational continuity, and lost revenue.
When completed, our building will be all new on the inside. Uncovered miscellaneous expenses seem inevitable, so extra financial support is very welcome – and a special indicator of “Fire Recovery Fund” has been added to Realm’s online giving dropdown menu for your convenience.
In addition, we may be able to quickly decide, as a congregation, to pursue some of the building-related projects that we have been talking about prior to the fire, such as improvements to accessibility and safety. More information will be shared in coming months about these possible add-on projects, which could require additional funding from our congregation. Completion of this work during the fire restoration process will likely offer our congregation cost savings and other efficiencies.
Services will be held at 502 East Event Center for the remainder of August.
To honor the need for our staff and congregation to rest, we will NOT have in-person or pre-recorded services on Labor Day weekend (September 3).
We will begin worship services on September 10 and beyond at Clay Middle School on 126th Street, a few miles northeast of St. Peter’s. This location is fully accessible and more information will be shared in the coming weeks.
Our grounds are open! Please use the Memory Garden, Labyrinth, and Native Habitat as often as you are inspired!