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Major fire at Duluth's Gloria Dei Lutheran Church ruled accidental in nature

The Duluth Fire Marshal's Office has determined that the Feb. 18 fire that caused major damage to Gloria Dei Lutheran Church was an accident, caused by electrical wiring.

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Fire crews battle a large fire at Duluth's Gloria Dei Lutheran Church from both sides of the building on Feb. 18 shortly before sunrise. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com

The Duluth Fire Marshal's Office has determined that the Feb. 18 fire that caused major damage to Gloria Dei Lutheran Church was an accident, caused by electrical wiring.

“The fire started in the void space above the plaster ceiling. The fire burned undetected for hours before smoke reached a smoke detector on the drop ceiling below,” Fire Marshal Marnie Grondahl reported in a news release.

The activation of that fire alarm is what prompted the fire department response at about 5:30 a.m. to the church in Duluth’s Hillside neighborhood, at Sixth Avenue East and Third Street. Damage from the fire has been estimated at $900,000; the sanctuary suffered major damage, and firefighters were forced to break stained-glass windows during their efforts to extinguish the flames.

“It’s a blessing to know that no one was involved personally and the findings of the investigative report will help us put this tragedy behind us and move us forward,” Gloria Dei Pastor David Carlson told the News Tribune on Friday. “We’re really thankful for the professionalism of firefighters and other officials these past days.”

Gloria Dei is awaiting word from a structural engineer about the building’s stability and whether the structure can be reused.

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“We have every intention of rebuilding in the same location and we do hope that we would be able to use as much of the existing structure as we can,” Carlson said.

He said the congregation continues to be grateful for the support it’s receiving from the community, organizations and neighbors. They’re building relationships within the faith community, and the church’s temporary office space on East Superior Street is working out well, Carlson said. The congregation has been worshipping with Faith Lutheran Church in Lakeside since the fire.

The church has received cards and letters of encouragement from around the country. Carlson said he was planning to attend a fish fry Friday at Grace Lutheran Church in Hermantown to benefit Gloria Dei’s rebuilding fund .

“In a way, what we’ve been trying to do is take our ministry beyond the walls of the church and with that comes some challenges, but I think that people are coming together in the congregation. I think that there’s a spirit of hope and I think people are looking forward to the future knowing that God will provide,” he said.

Related Topics: FIRES
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