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Fire damage to landmark Hubbard church tops $1M

Submitted photo This is a view of the damage to the altar area in the sanctuary of St. Patrick Parish in Hubbard after a fire Monday evening that caused extensive damage in the basement of the building and some of the main floor. Firefighters estimate the damage, including fire, smoke and water damage, at more than $1 million.

HUBBARD — The Rev. Michael Swierz, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Hubbard, said it was hard seeing the grieving faces of parish members Monday evening as they watched a fire cause more than $1 million in damage to the church.

The parish off North Main Street caught fire in the basement around 5:45 p.m. Monday as fire crews from several communities spent about five hours at the scene.

Hubbard Eagle Joint Fire District Chief Ron Stanish said an investigation is underway, but it is believed the fire began in a conference room area near the kitchen. He said the room is structurally unsafe after the fire and needs to be checked by an engineer before firefighters can go into the area to investigate.

“Right now the fire is under investigation. It will be some time for us to determine the cause of the fire,” he said.

Stanish said a few firefighters had minor injuries and bruises at the scene, but no major injuries were reported.

He said crews also from Girard, Liberty, Brookfield, Vernon, Vienna, Hermitage, Shenango, Coitsville and West Middlesex helped in getting the fire under control very quickly.

Extensive damage was done to the conference room and kitchen in the basement with smoke, water and heat damage throughout the building and some fire damage in the sanctuary on the main floor. The basement also has a boiler room and storage area.

Stanish said the building had a lot of smoke damage with soot visible on the altar, chapel area and floor. He said he was thankful no one was seriously injured and noted the damaged property and contents can be replaced.

Swierz said all events will continue as planned and will be moved to the parish center, including a blood drive set for today.

“We are committed to these events and will hold them as planned,” Swierz said.

Masses at 4 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 and 11 a.m. Sunday will go on as scheduled in the parish center.

Swierz said he was joined Monday evening by newly installed Youngstown Diocese Bishop David Bonnar and the Rev. Robert Siffrin, diocesan administrator, who were in the parking lot watching fire crews battle the blaze.

“It was hard to see people grieving as they watched the fire. The parish has been a big part of their lives,” he said.

Monday evening, Swierz said he was in another building when the alarm company called him about the fire alarm going off at the church.

He said smoke was seen pouring from the roof and back entrance area of the church building.

Bonnar, who had just been installed as bishop for the Diocese of Youngstown on Jan. 12, comforted people at the scene, officials said.

The parish has been a part of Hubbard for more than 150 years.

“The church is the center of our life here in Hubbard,” Swierz said.

Stanish said the fire departments thanked local businesses and the community for supplying water and food to fire crews.

Hubbard Mayor Ben Kyle, a member of the church, said, “The community has suffered a great tragedy. St. Patrick Catholic Church has been devastated by a fire. Thankfully, no one was inside when the fire started. Things in the basement are totally gone and can’t be salvaged.”

Kyle, who went to the scene Monday and was also at the church Tuesday helping to move items to the parish center, told officials at Tuesday’s council meeting that he was shocked by the soot and smoke damage inside the church, including the main altar area. He said the church organ was covered by soot but he was not sure of its condition.

“What is most important is that no one was hurt. There was such an enormous outpouring of support not only from members of the church but from residents and neighbors. This showed that even with a tragedy like this, Hubbard is a close-knit community,” Kyle said.

Hubbard Safety Director Lou Carsone said police and firefighters, some of whom were at the meeting, are to be commended for their quick action.

Councilman-at-Large Michael Kerr said too often people hear an alarm going off and are not always worried, but police officers went to the scene and saw the smoke coming from the building and took immediate action.

“I was amazed at the many fire departments that responded through mutual aid to help Hubbard,” Kerr said.

“St. Pat’s is a pillar of our faith and also a pillar of our Hubbard community. As a testament to that, hundreds of people flocked to the scene to lend a hand or say a prayer. I was truly overwhelmed by this outpouring of support. This is the true sense of a community coming together,” Kyle said.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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