Saturday’s devastating fire, which leveled the First Congregational Church of Pomfret, is the third in the church’s 300 year history.
Pomfret Fire Marshal Chris Bray says the latest fire appears to have been accidental. Church members say they felt for the contractor, who was working on repairing the church’s front steps when a procedure they were using was likely the trigger.
Sean Sullivan, a church trustee, said the contractor needed to heat up some rubber, which heated to the point that it ignited. First Selectman Maureen Nicholson was arriving at the church when the first crews arrived early Saturday afternoon.
She says, “At every step of the way, you’re thinking, OK, they can probably put it out and salvage some part of the building. But, it just went so quickly.”
Sunday services went on as scheduled, however. This was thanks to the neighboring Pomfret School, which opened the doors to its chapel for the congregation with some 80 members.
“They’ve been neighbors of the school since the school was founded 120 years ago. They’ve been here longer than we have,” said Tim Richards, the head of school, for The Pomfret School.
The school has extended an offer for continued use of its chapel until it can be determined what’s next for the congregation, whose sanctuary was located right next to three of the school’s dormitories.
“So, we were having to work with our kids to both be careful and to be sensitive to what was happening,” added Richards.
Church Pastor Thomas Crumb emphasized that the church is not the sanctuary. The church is the people.