116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Church on American Legion Road, “fully engulfed in flames and smoke” early Saturday, is searching for a place to hold services after being declared a total loss.
The cause of the fire is unknown, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said Monday. “It is standard practice for the (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) to investigate a fire involving a church and the primary focus at this point is to determine the cause,” a news release said.
The Johnson County Joint Emergency Communications Center received a call at 4:22 a.m. Saturday about a structure fire at 4643 American Legion Road.
West Branch Fire Department and Iowa City Fire Department responded to the fire on the east side near Iowa City, as did the Iowa City Police Department and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. The fire was in West Branch’s jurisdiction.
Fire crews extinguished the fire after several hours due to the size of the building and bad weather in the area, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office do not have an estimated cost of damages yet. There were no injuries.
Church will adapt
Lead Pastor Tom Steele received a phone call early Saturday while he was on vacation. Steele, who has been a pastor at Iowa City Church for 17 years, said getting the news was surreal.
“Your typical shock and trying to get your mind around the fact that something you've been so associated with is gone. Just how sudden it was and how it happened,” Steele said.
“Please be praying for our church,” the church said in a Saturday morning Facebook post. Iowa City Church, 4643 American Legion Road, is a non-denominational Christian church.
Steele said he would be shocked if the cause of the fire was something other than lightning. A strong storm with heavy rain and lightning passed through the area Saturday morning.
The church has served the community for more than 30 years, Steele said, adding that the building was built in 1991. Steele said there has been work done to the building over the years, including recently.
The church hopes to find an alternative meeting place and is working on narrowing down options. Steele said the hope is to have a more solidified plan in the next few weeks.
Steele said many of the churches in the area have reached out to him to offer building space and resources. Steele added that it was humbling to have so many pastors and community members reach out to him in the last few days.
“I've just been overwhelmed by so many people offering space,” Steele said. “We have a lot of options to choose from.”
Steele said he is optimistic about the future as the church adapts to the situation and how best to serve the community.
“I'm just very fortunate God's provided for us, even in the midst of what would appear to be a tragedy,” Steele said.
Comments: (319) 339-3155; email@example.com