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'There’s a lot of memories here:’ Fire rips through Ravenna's First Reformed Church & then reignites

Fire at First Reformed Church in Ravenna
Posted at 7:58 PM, Apr 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-03 18:57:38-04

RAVENNA, Mich. — Flames shot out First Reformed Church–Ravenna’s roof for most of Saturday afternoon and evening.

“I mean, your heart just drops,” says Pastor Stephen Vanderwoude. He was in Grand Rapids when someone called him about the church being on fire.

“As I look at the smoke coming out of the sanctuary, I am reminded that the church is not the building. The church is the people."

Firefighters worked to put out a fire that seemed to be spreading constantly.

“You know, I know God is going to take this [...] and while this might be challenging and heart-wrenching... because as someone shared with me as I walked up, they said, ‘You know, I was married in that church.' There’s a lot of memories here.”

Ravenna Fire Department tells FOX 17 they called in seven different agencies to help. The fire chief says this battle was challenging because they only had one fire hydrant nearby. Crews ultimately relied on tankers with water to help put the fire out.

“A lot of smoke, some flames," recalls Dawn Hillard, who lives right next door to the church. She was at work when she got the call.

“The guy from the church called me and said, 'Yes, the church is on fire. Are you and your daughter OK?' I said, 'I don’t know yet; I’m not home yet.' I couldn’t get ahold of my daughter because her phone only works on the Wi-Fi through the church."

Her daughter is OK.

Still, many watched as the fire and smoke engulfed the church.

“In the last couple of hours the phone has been going off the hook of people offering condolences and prayers but reaching out to offer assistance, help, and that’s what makes Ravenna so special," says Pastor Vanderwoude.

Additional damage was done when the fire reignited overnight into Sunday morning.

No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

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