NORTON, Ohio - After two hours of battling flames, crews have contained a fire at The Father's House Church on Wadsworth Road in Norton.
Thirteen fire departments responded to the fire, which began around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, but faced challenges extinguishing the blaze due to a lack of fire hydrants in the area. Heavy smoke saturated the area and at one point flames jumped through the roof of the church.
According to the church's pastor, no one was inside the church at the time of the fire, but services had been held there Wednesday night. A few hours after the congregation left around 9 p.m., two church members reported seeing flames coming from the church and called 911.
"Right away I looked up to the top of the church and said, 'Donna the church is on fire.' She said 'Oh my God' and right away we both grabbed the phone, looking for our cell phones to call 911," church member Sue Carr said.
Due to funding issues, the Norton Fire Department is not currently staffed between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and that caused a delay in response time.
Norton's fire chief said during the fire the roof collapsed and one firefighter was knocked down. He was sent to the hospital but is expected to be ok. The chief said the staffing problems at the department are making firefighter's jobs more dangerous.
"It's very scary for me because I'm responsible for the lives of these guys and we were in seconds of losing four fireman tonight because we can't staff properly," said Chief Mike Schultz.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but according to the church's pastor, electrical work had just been completed Tuesday in a corner of the church where the fire broke out.
The church is a total loss. Congregation members watched the building burn down.
"It's like watching somebody die in a way," Pastor Mike Guarnieri said.
"It's really emotional. We had some tears and you know, what can you do?" Guarnieri said.
The pastor of the church said the church is insured and they do plan to rebuild.
Stay with newsnet5.com for more on this developing story.