Fire guts Kalamazoo church; smoke seen for miles

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that’s gutted a church near downtown Kalamazoo.

The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety says the fire started around 1 p.m. Wednesday at Open Door Church of God in Christ, located near the intersection of Phelps and Charles avenues in Kalamazoo’s Eastside neighborhood.

Firefighters had to attack the flames from outside because the building’s roof and some of its cinderblock walls collapsed. Twenty-five firefighters worked for about four hours to douse the fire.

Heat from the fire also damaged the siding on a house next door to the church.

No one was injured.

>>Photos: Fire at Open Door Church of God in Christ

As the fire burned, smoke could be seen from about two miles away.

Neighbors, parishioners and friends looked on as their church burned. 

“It’s very devastating. I’m shaken all in the inside. It’s very devastating because I love my church,” said Gloria Rymes, who was baptized at Open Door Church of God and attended services there.

“Everything is gone. Where we have our meetings is gone, the pastor’s office, kitchen — everything is gone from this end. And just to know that our church, where we have service is gone,” Rymes said, holding back tears.

Pastor Joseph L. Anderson said the church his father helped build united neighbors.

“There’s no doubt it holds the community together, ’cause lot of the young people that you see here, they’ve gone here to this church. And it’s a devastating blow for them,” he said.

But hope remains.

“We gonna let the community know that we gonna rebuild. And we gonna start from the bottom up and keep it going,” said Anderson.

“I’m devastated, but we gonna be alright. We’re gonna be alright,” Rymes said.

Parishioners say it’s a miracle no one was inside the church at the time of the fire, since Open Door Church of God in Christ holds community dinners from their food pantry on Wednesday nights.

But because no one was inside, it’s unclear how the fire stated. The fire marshal plans to sort through the rubble to determine the cause. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is aiding in the investigation.

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