Historic Church in Indianapolis Heavily Damaged by Fire

Members of the congregation got a look at the damage inside the Downey Avenue Christian church Saturday.

A fire broke out at the historic church on the city's east side Friday night at about 8 p.m.

Black soot and a strong, smoky stench fill the historic sanctuary. The heaviest damage was in the rooms behind the pulpit at the front of the building.

Crews cleaned up some of the mess to make way for the rebuilding process. Most of the exterior of the church remained intact.

No one was injured in the fire and church members, while upset about the blaze, were confident the congregation would pull together and rebuild, RTV6's Jeremy Brilliant reported.

"I've been a member for a long time. I was born into this church. My parents were married here and my children were married here," said Sue Knorr. "It's sad, but we're a congregation that will come back. We'll stick together and make it through it."

Investigators said several people were inside the church's basement when the blaze began. They heard an alarm and got out safely.

"We just live over about three or four houses and we saw the fire trucks coming and saw the flames coming out of the front of the church here," said neighbor Dan Julian.

Firefighters cut a hole in the roof above the sanctuary to stop the flames from spreading further.

Several area churches offered the congregation the use of their building and other assistance. Pastor Sue Shadburne-Call said the situation reminded her of a quote hanging in her office.

"The church is what you have when the preacher moves away and the building burns down," Shadburne-Call said. "This is still the church."

Investigators were not sure what caused the fire, but officials don't believe there was anything suspicious about its origin.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will be involved in the investigation because the blaze involved a house of worship.

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