ROCHESTER — No one was injured Tuesday, July 26, in an early morning fire that destroyed some of the interior of the Franciscan Missions.
According to Guardian of the Friary, Franciscan Fr. Sante DeAngelis, the blaze at 940 Browns Lake Drive, caused about $100,000 in damage and forced the evacuation of six people.
“I had just gotten up around 5:30 am and the fire alarm went off,” he said. “I opened the door and saw some smoke down the hall and called the others to get up and out of the building. Then I called 911. We live on the first floor and the smoke was coming up from the basement.”
The nearest neighbors are 300 feet away and Fr. DeAngelis explained they were not in danger from the fire so no others were evacuated.
Deputies and fire personnel who arrived on the scene observed heavy smoke and an active fire was confirmed, according to a press release from the Racine County Sheriff’s Office. More than 85 firefighters were on the scene to assist with the fire, explained Fr. DeAngelis.[su_pullquote align=”right”]Donations toward a crisis fund to cover the insurance deductible and rebuilding costs are welcome and can be sent to: Franciscan Fr. Teofil Czarniak Executive Director General Secretariat of the Franciscan Missions P.O. Box 130, Waterford, WI 53185 To learn more about the work of the Franciscans or to donate online visit: WWW.FRANCISCANMISSIONS.ORG [/su_pullquote]
“The firefighters took over an hour to put out the fire and clear the smoke, but they did their work very well,” he said. “We had a lot of smoke and water damage to our equipment and our personal possessions. We were able to get a couple of things out, but water went into our safe, so those items are gone. We are supposed to have a company come to clean what they can of our personal things and throw out what can’t be recovered. Definitely there was a lot of loss.”
Early reports suggest a faulty ceiling fan was the cause of the fire, however the fire is under investigation.
“I was working the night before with another person until about 9:30 p.m. and we didn’t notice a smell or anything,” said Fr. DeAngelis. “We are not sure what time it started, but it had to have started a little before I got up, since it started in the basement and there was smoke on the first floor.”
The Franciscan Missions, Inc. was started by Fr. Constantine Koser, the general minister of the Order of the Friars Minor, in 1964 to raise funds to help support the work of the Franciscans who live and work with the poor throughout the world.
“We are in the midst of collecting money for Syria. We are also helping people in Ecuador, especially a group of children who suffer with AIDS,” said Fr. DeAngelis.
Franciscan Missions, Inc. is under the auspices of its executive director, Franciscan Fr. Teofil Czarniak, and operations manager, Tyler Curtis. Fr. Czarniak and Curtis were out of the country when the fire occurred.
“I was in Ecuador and Fr. Teo was in Poland, and when I first heard about the fire, I had a difficult time getting information because the Wi-Fi and Internet connections were sketchy,” said Curtis. “The things can be replaced. The most important thing is that there were no injuries and no loss of life and we are so grateful.”
The friars are temporarily housed at the St. Francis Monastery, 2457 S. Browns Lake Drive, Burlington. Fr. DeAngelis is hoping they can transfer the Franciscan Mission operations to the monastery until they are able to get back into their own building.
“There will be 13 novices moving in soon, but we are hoping there will be room for us to work and live for a few months,” he said. “We are told that it should take about three months to restore the building. We are covered by insurance and we have had two adjusters out so far. We are confident that they will do their job very swiftly.”