Fire destroys 100-year-old Oregon church

Fire destroys 100-year-old Oregon church

UU Fellowship of Klamath County grieves loss of building.
Jane Greer


A fire completely destroyed the 100-year-old building belonging to the 20-member lay-led Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Klamath County in Klamath Falls, Ore., on January 4. No one was injured. The historic building, which was a former schoolhouse, was made completely of wood and burned to the ground. The cause was deemed accidental by the Klamath County Fire District.

"The congregation is stunned and saddened," said fellowship president Barry Gumbert. The fellowship had held a centennial celebration in the building last summer.

Gumbert estimated that the building was approximately 1,800 square feet. It contained a sanctuary, kitchen and dining space, and a balcony used for storage. The religious education area, located in a modular home behind the church, was untouched.

The congregation held a memorial service for the building on January 9, led by the Rev. Patt Herdklotz in a county meeting room. "There was a lot of grieving," said Phil Studenberg, the congregation's program coordinator and past president. "There were so many memories of people getting married and also burying loved ones."

Investigators believe that a heat lamp set next to combustible materials near the water tank could have started the blaze.

The Pine Grove School occupied the building from 1910 until approximately 1940. The building was then used by other groups until the fellowship purchased it in 1960. The building, which was valued at $142,000, is located in a semi-rural area now surrounded by golf courses.

Studenberg said that the fellowship was heartened by the offers of help that have come in. He said that Methodist and Episcopal churches have offered the use of space. A UU in Maine offered to replace the congregation's hymnals.

"It's not the end of something," he said. "It's the start of something new."

The UUA's Pacific Northwest District has set up an emergency fund for the church.

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