By Rita Reith
Indianapolis (IN) Fire Department Public Information Officer
Heavy fire significantly damaged the narthex portion of an Indianapolis church, but quick action by initial attack crews prevented the fire from communicating to the interior of the congregation area and altar.
Dispatched at 3:47 a.m., fire crews arrived to find smoke and fire through the roof of the center portion of the structure. The campus type building houses St. Monica Church, administrative offices, and the Pre-K-eighth grade elementary school. The area sustaining the most damage was an entryway that sits between the large worship space and the administrative offices.
Crews attempted to establish water supply for the attack but were delayed when the initial supply line was hooked to damaged hydrant. The hydrant–which appeared to be normal–had been sheared at the base and returned to its upright position. It is believed a motorist may have hit it but never reported it to Citizen’s Water. This delayed firefighters‘ efforts as they tried to locate another hydrant to establish an initial supply line. The Indianapolis Fire Department would like to remind anyone who may hit a hydrant or see a hydrant that looks damaged or is leaking to report it immediately to Citizen’s Water or the fire department. The life safety consequences and additional damage to the church could have been catastrophic had it not been for the quick-thinking actions of crews to locate another hydrant quickly. Line already laid in the street is not easily movable and hydrants are typically spaced 500 feet apart or more. Citizen’s crews on scene were notified about the hydrant and immediately took it out of service.
Within minutes of arrival, Battalion Chief Rick Longerich ordered a second-alarm response, which brought assistance from Pike Township Fire. Although crews made headway during the initial offensive attack, the collapse of the roof over the narthex forced command to pull all companies out of the structure and adopt a defensive stance.
Aerial lines were deployed and blanketed the interior with water. Offensive operations resumed within 15 minutes. Despite about six inches of water pooling around the altar of the church and smoke damage, the rest of the worship space remained unscathed. The hallways leading to the church and school administrative offices were flooded. Salvage efforts with tarps and plastic sheeting were performed throughout the church to keep additional damage to a minimum. Damage was estimated at $400,000.There were no injuries.
St. Monica was established in 1956 and is one of the largest parishes in the Indianapolis Archdiocese with 3,000 families.