Heating tools suspected in Milwaukee church fire

Photo: WISN

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WBAY/AP) - A Milwaukee fire official says heating tools apparently caused a fire that destroyed a historic downtown church.

Deputy Fire Chief Dave Votsis says the tools placed on adjacent scaffolding may have ignited the roof of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Votis estimates damage to the structure at $13 million and an additional $4 million in damage to the church's contents.

Votis said Wednesday that the building is not structurally sound after the fire. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports a condemnation case was filed at the city, suggesting the church may have to be razed.

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran was founded by German immigrants in 1847, according to its website. The building was constructed in 1878. It is one of the oldest churches in Milwaukee and the second oldest Missouri Synod church in Wisconsin.

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and it is a State Historical Landmark.

The fire was reported by the pastor at 3:45 p.m. It became a four-alarm fire and about 100 firefighters responded. But within two hours, a steeple had collapsed and almost the entire roof was cinders.

Because of a concerns about a collapse, firefighters inside the church were ordered to pull out and ladder trucks was used for much of the firefight.

Copyright 2018 WBAY. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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