Several area fire departments are responding to Syracuse where the Methodist Church is on fire. Several area fire departments are responding to Syracuse where the Methodist Church is on fire. As of 8 p.m., the fire was still burning and efforts were centered on preventing spread to other structures. Pastor Gary Ganger said members of the congregation are gathering.
Flames were reported above the trees and the sanctuary also on fire at 7 p.m.
The initial call came in around 6:30 p.m. Smoke was reported seen as Syracuse Fire Department reached the scene. Mutual aid from surrounding towns was quickly requested and the aerial truck from Nebraska City Fire Department dispatched.
An additional pumper truck and light banks were called for a bit before 7.
The Otoe County EMS warming trailer was also heading to the scene.
Nancy Swarts reported at 7:30 that flames were shooting into the sky above the trees and that the sanctuary was on fire. She said the church and sanctuary will be a total loss.
At 7:30, help was requested to keep spectators back as sand trucks prepare to move in to help with the ice, which was covering many streets as the water ran downhill from the church.
At 8:13, spectators were being moved further from the scene and additional barricades put up.
The Journal-Democrat spoke with Pastor Gary Ganger of the Syracuse Methodist Church at 8:10. He said that the smoke was detected with Boy Scouts opened the church for the meeting. The scout leader then came to the parsonage to notify him, said Ganger, who then went to the church. He said he could barely smell smoke in the education center, but there was "lots of smoke" but no flames seen in the sanctuary.
He said smoke was coming out of the gables for about a half an hour before flames began appearing, but then the fire progressed rapidly.
Ganger said that huge gusts of wind drove the fire and made efforts to save the church "futile."
"I just want to cry," said Ganger about the loss of the church.
At 8 p.m. Ganger said ta remaining wall was leaning in and he expected it to collapse.
The collapse of the east wall was "frightening," said reporter Dan Swanson. "You could hear a couple of cracks, there was rolling smoke, there was very little visibility, you just heard these cracks and couldn't see the firefighters, then just saw the bricks hitting the ground 30 feet from where the pumper was on the street. You could feel the impact of the wall hitting the ground."
He said Mayor Kc Ortiz was calling out to see if anyone was injured. "It was very tense," said Swanson.
Page 2 of 2 - Members of the congregation were gathering at the scene and nearby homes and food was being served in the school, said Ganger.
"The church is so old...and it's an older congregation," said Ganger. The church "is a vital piece of their lives, of their history, of the community," he said.