O'FALLON, MO (KPLR)-Firefighters worked overnight to put out a fire at a church in O’Fallon, Missouri, near interstate I-70 and Bryan Road. The fire tore a hole in the roof over the Sunday school area of O’Fallon Christian Church on Veterans Memorial Parkway.
The phone woke Steve Below from his bed at 2:30 Saturday morning. He was relieved to find that there was no medical emergency with any of the church members. He headed for the church on Veterans Memorial Parkway near Interstate 70 and Bryan Road.
"But, when I turned the corner about a half a mile away, I thought, 'this could be serious,’” he laughed nervously, clutching a cup of Starbucks.
Below, the church’s associate pastor, expected a small kitchen fire. Rich Johns, executive vice president of Action Restoration Services, cleared things up.
"[The fire] had already burnt through the ceiling before the fire department even got here."
The crew scrambled to salvage Sunday services.
"We're going to build a temporary roof structure for it, because there's rain coming.”
Below just chuckled.
"From what I've seen downstairs, it ain't gonna hurt,” he laughed. “There's a lot of water down there already."
"It might even look better, when we get done with it,” still laughing. “There's some painting we should be doing anyway, probably."
Pastor Below seemed underwhelmed by the charred hole in the church’s roof. However, he knew that no one was inside when the fire broke out. Second, the congregation was still struggling with a much bigger loss: youth pastor William Wallace.
"Heart attack,” Below stopped laughing. “34.”
That was less than two weeks before.
"We had a service for him, and over 600 people came and just shared for about 4 hours what he had done in their life,” Below explained. “Our church has been hit pretty hard, recently. So, [this fire] really isn't a huge thing."
With the damage inside this building, one might wonder how anyone could consider doing anything there. But, Pastor Below said the damage didn't really matter because the church – itself -- wasn’t the building.
"The church is the people, and our people are safe,” Below smiled. “So, the church is safe."