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Lightning strike may have caused fire at Catholic church in Andale, chief says

Drone video of Andale church fire

(FILE VIDEO -- JUNE 24, 2018) Lightning may have been the cause of a fire that destroyed the roof and attic of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Andale on Sunday.
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(FILE VIDEO -- JUNE 24, 2018) Lightning may have been the cause of a fire that destroyed the roof and attic of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Andale on Sunday.

A lightning strike is believed to have caused an early Sunday morning fire at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Andale, but that cause has not yet been confirmed, Sedgwick County Fire Chief Tavis Leake said.

The fire was reported at about 5:45 a.m., he said, and when fire crews arrived, they saw smoke and flames coming out of the attic at 318 Rush.

Crews started attacking the fire from outside of the church. Because the fire was high in a tall building, Leake said fighting the fire required elevated devices.

The roof of the church has collapsed into the building.

Fire departments from Wichita, Andale, Colwich, Mount Hope and Bentley helped fight the fire, Leake said.

Two firefighters who responded were taken to an area hospital in critical condition, Leake said.

"Last I checked, they are doing well," he said.

The fire had been contained to the attic space and was under control Sunday morning. At 9:15 a.m., the police department asked Andale residents to limit water use "due to the large amount of water needed to fight the fire."

Not many firefighters or investigators have gone inside the church, so the inside condition is not yet known.

Mass at the church is usually held at 8 and 10 a.m. on Sundays, according to the church's website. Due to the fire, one 10 a.m. Mass was held at Andale High School.

"It is what it is," Father Daryl Befort said after leading the 10 a.m. Mass. "We are very blessed the high school opened it up right away to us."

“It is what it is,” Father Daryl Befort says after the 10 a.m. Mass was held at the high school Sunday. St. Joseph Catholic Church caught fire early Sunday morning.

He said the church will begin making plans to repair and rebuild within the next couple of weeks.

Andale is about 30 minutes west of Wichita.

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