Photos: Fire destroys 102-year-old church in Syracuse, Neb. -
Published Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 9:34 pm / Updated at 10:58 pm
Photos: Fire destroys 102-year-old church in Syracuse, Neb.

Photos: Sunday blaze claims 102-year-old church

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The pastor of 102-year-old church in Syracuse, Neb., destroyed by fire Sunday said his congregation is already looking to rebuild.

Pastor Gary Ganger said Monday that not all was lost at the United Methodist Church. The educational wing and the parsonage suffered smoke and water damage, but otherwise are intact, he said.

"I will be meeting with insurance and the trustees to make primitive plans on how best to move forward and keep our community intact,” Ganger said. “We're lucky in that no one was hurt. The (church) community, after all, is people, not a building.”

Firefighters from Palmyra, Unadilla and Nebraska City joined Syracuse firefighters in battling the flames in the bitter cold and high winds.

Ganger said that wind gusts of up to 35 mph made attempts to save the church impossible, and thanked firefighters for a valiant effort. The church tower collapsed Monday morning, leaving only one wall still standing. Ganger said it will be bulldozed.

“I saw the tower collapse and the one wall still standing is covered with ice, making it quite beautiful,” Ganger said. “But it looks like something from a war zone.”

The educational wing that was built in 1962 is 40 feet by 90 feet and two stories tall, he said. It includes the pastor's office but is not suitable for holding services.

“We will be making a lot of decisions, including where to hold services,” he said. “There is a strong German community here and we have been getting a lot of support from the other churches in Syracuse.”

Ganger said United Methodist Church has more than 200 members, about 75 to 80 of whom attend weekly services. The loss of church artifacts, some going back four generations, will be deeply felt by the members, he said.

“Some very good craftsmen had done some really fine wood working,” he said. “We also lost so many generational memories such as our book of memorials, wall hangings and art work. We also lost our beautiful stained glass windows.”

Ganger said Boy Scout leaders discovered smoke in the church about 6:30 p.m. when they opened a door for a meeting. The scout leaders immediately closed the door and called 911, he said.

Firefighters worked to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby homes. At one point, flames were reported above the treetops.

The fire was contained by 9 p.m., though firefighters remained on the scene through the night.

The cause of the blaze wasn't known Monday, but there was nothing suspicious about it, Ganger said.

Syracuse is about 25 miles southeast of Lincoln and 15 miles west of Nebraska City.

The church posted an “urgent prayer request” on its Facebook page after the fire was reported.

“So sorry for the fire, but glad our Scout leader meeting led to the discovery,” Janet Harder said in a comment posted on the church's Facebook page. “Prayers for all the fire fighters.”

Donations for United Methodist Church are being accepted at Firstbank of Nebraska, formerly First National Bank of Syracuse, at their locations in Wahoo, Sterling, Burchard and Syracuse.

Donations can also be mailed to the United Methodist Church at P.O. Box 250, Syracuse, Neb., 68446.

Contact the writer: Kevin Cole    |   402-444-1272    |  

Kevin Cole covers workings of police, courts and government and writes features about interesting subjects in Omaha and the surrounding counties.

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