ROCKFORD — Three firefighters were injured Monday in what the Rockford Fire Department is calling two separate maydays while battling a fire at St. James Catholic Church.
All three firefighters are being treated for injuries that are not considered life threatening.
Damage to the church was estimated at $3 million.
Firefighters responded about 6:45 a.m. to the church at 428 N. Second St. and found smoke and flames coming from the roof.
Firefighters entered the church off North Second Street to gain access to the attic of the church, but conditions inside the church deteriorated causing firefighters to back out of the structure.
The fire was brought under control within one hour. Fire crews remained on the scene for the next three hours working to extinguish small fires trapped under the roof and within insulation in the attic. The cause of the fire is under investigation at this time.
Diocese spokeswoman Penny Wiegert said St. James Church was founded in 1853 and is Rockford's oldest Catholic church. The cornerstone for the church was laid in 1861 and the building was dedicated in 1867.
In a statement issued on behalf of the Dioceses, Wiegert said:
"Although the fire may have been caused by a lightning strike during this morning’sthunderstorms, the official cause is not yet determined.
"No one was present inside the buildings at the time of the fire and the pastor, Father Jhonatan Sarmiento, was able to safely remove the Blessed Sacrament from the interior."
She added the Diocese is cooperating with the Rockford Fire Department as it works to assess the stability of the church building and report its findings to the diocesan administration.
"As soon as it is possible and pending that report, the diocese will then conduct an assessment of the church’s interior," she said.
"Insurance adjusters for the Diocese of Rockford were on scene this morning, and will assess the damage as soon as it is safe to do so. Determination on damages and the extent of the next steps to be taken in regard to any and all repairs will be made at that time.
"Information about alternative arrangements for Masses will be announced by St. James Parish Office. Bishop David Malloy extends his profound gratitude to all the first responders, the vigilant neighbors and all those around the diocese who have offered prayers during this extremely sad and unfortunate event.
"Prayers are also being offered for those three courageous firefighters reported to have sustained injuries while fighting this fire."
This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: St. James Church in Rockford damaged by fire, firefighters hurt