Live video of the fire
Livonia church destroyed; students are out in the cold. Storage area may be where blaze started February 17, 2004
As smoke billowed from the eaves of the Galilean Baptist Church in Livonia on Monday morning, 15-year-old Seth Noe watched the sanctuary where three generations of his family worshiped disappear into the crisp winter sky.
The fire ravaged the 51-year-old church at 28875 Seven Mile, destroying the sanctuary that seated about 700. The blaze also displaced the 20 students who attend the church's K-12 school and four teachers. They were on the other side of the building and escaped unharmed.
"We were terrified; little kids were crying," recalled Jon Meyer, 13, of Wayne. "I'm going to miss this building. It's a very special church. It's where I grew up, where I was baptized."
Firefighters from Livonia, Westland, Redford and Farmington Hills responded to the fire about 9:50 a.m. They gained control of the blaze shortly after noon, Livonia Fire Chief Alan Brandenmihl Jr. said. Several firefighters slipped on ice formed by water used to fight the blaze, but no one was injured.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but Brandenmihl said it may have begun in a storage room.
"One pastor saw smoke and said, 'Everyone grab your coats,' and I saw smoke then," said Noe, a ninth-grader from Brighton who stood in the water-soaked parking lot watching firefighters tend to the church's charred remains. "I can't be mad. God has some reason why this happened."
Noe's grandfather, Herbert Noe, founded the church, and his father, Dan Noe, is assistant pastor and school principal. According to Dan Noe, the education wing was built in 1956 and the auditorium in 1967. The church has an estimated 150 members.
"It's a total loss," Brandenmihl said. "The congregation has ties to it; it's like a death in the family."
Gone also are a mural of a river on the wall of the baptistry, the modest blue cushions that softened the oak pews and the custom-made map that highlighted the international missions supported by Galilean Baptist.
Senior Pastor David Fredrick said plans had yet to be made about where K-12 classes and services will be held. School will likely be canceled for today.
"At this time, I don't have answers," Fredrick said. "He reveals His will step by step as we trust Him. It doesn't look very good at the moment, but the last chapter hasn't been written."