March 14, 2012
ADA — An unattended candle near combustible material is being blamed for igniting a fiery blaze Tuesday that destroyed the 113-year-old First United Methodist Church in Ada, a state fire marshal's spokesman said Wednesday.Even as firefighters continued to periodically spray the remaining hot embers, an investigation by the Division of State Fire Marshal concluded the fire was accidental. Sixteen children and two teachers in a basement day care and other people who were in the church at the time escaped unharmed.“Officially the fire will be ruled undetermined because investigators were not able to complete their examination of the scene due to safety concerns with the structure of the church,” said Shane Cartmill, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office. “A few homes nearby the church suffered minor radiant heat damage, including burned roofs, melted siding and scorched vegetation. The nearby library suffered similar minor damage. A home a block away from the fire also suffered damage when blowing embers drifted onto the home's roof.”Bob McCurdy, a church trustee, said the church will in all likelihood have to be demolished, possibly as early as today. Despite losing a landmark, McCurdy said there's more to the church than bricks and mortar.“The focus is on life, on humanity, life goes on,” McCurdy said. “This is a building and the building is very important to the community and a building that our members cared about deeply and invested in tremendously, especially in the last few years.”Even as the fire raged Tuesday, the administration at Ohio Northern University was busy extending offers of assistance to the church, its congregation and the firefighters battling the inferno, university President Daniel DiBiasio said.“Our association with the church in general and our particular association with this church has a long history,” DiBiasio said. “So many of our university community members are members of this church, our students worship here. From the get-go from the first that we heard of it we wanted to do all we could to provide support.”The church will take up temporary refuge in the university's English Chapel beginning this Sunday, DiBiasio said. There will be space for worship services, Sunday school classes and day care. The university is also offering office space and technology support. All of it will be offered as long as the church needs it, DiBiasio said.Members of the church community received a morale boost just before noon Wednesday when Bishop Bruce Ough, of the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, arrived at the corner of Main Street and Highland Avenue, across the street from the burnt remnants of the church, for an impromptu prayer service.“Now that would be quite a miracle if we could take it down and rebuild it in three days, right? What Jesus was really trying to remind them is who the real temple is,” Ough said. “Even though this is a structure that many of us are attached to and you are attached to, this is really about remembering that Jesus is ultimately the temple. That temple cannot be destroyed and neither can this temple. Bricks are gone, the building's down, the roof's caved in, but this can never really be destroyed.“It's not ultimately about this building it's about the fact that Jesus lives and because of that he will raise up this congregation and give you another spiritual home. It may not look like this one. It may not even be on this site, who knows what God has in store, but the promise remains and that is that Christ will raise you up.”You can comment on this story online at www.limaohio.com.