Photos: Fire destroys 102-year-old church in Syracuse, Neb. - Omaha.com
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

* * *

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

kevin.cole@owh.com    |   402-444-1272    |  

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

A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
Bernie Kanger formally promoted to Omaha fire chief
U.S. House incumbents have deeper pockets than their challengers
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
Ex-Iowan behind landmark free speech case recounts story in Bellevue
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Gov. Heineman signs water bill; sponsor calls it 'landmark legislation'
After all his bluster and bravado in the courtroom, Nikko Jenkins found guilty of 4 murders
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Senate candidate Shane Osborn to include anti-tax activist Norquist in telephone town hall
Gov. Heineman calls 2014 a 'very good year for Nebraska taxpayers'
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Attorney: Man accused of trying to open plane's door needs psychiatric evaluation
49-year-old sentenced to 40-50 years for attempted sex assault of child
Brothers looking for pot sentenced for violent home invasion
At Boys Town panel, experts stress it's never too early to educate children
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Arrest made in teen's shooting death at Benson's Gallagher Park
Section of 50th Street to close for bridge demolition
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
Plans for new $16M YMCA in Council Bluffs at 'critical juncture'
Woodmen request would take nearly $40M in valuation from tax rolls
With fixed AC, Fort Calhoun's nuclear station ends brief shutdown
Windy day could make driving difficult on east-west roads
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Breaking Brad: Pothole repair crew gets stuck in a pothole
In East Lansing, Mich., a pothole repair crew got stuck inside a pothole. How did this not happen in Omaha?
Breaking Brad: What do the moon, Colorado senators have in common?
How about that "blood red" moon Monday? It was as red as the eyes of a Colorado legislator.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Dr. Welbes Natural Health Clinic
$129 for 2 LipoLaser Sessions with Additional Complimentary Services ($605 value)
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »