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Grace Lutheran Church Fire in Vestal Found to be Accidental in Nature

A devastating fire tore through the Grace Lutheran Church in Vestal last night. The church was built in 1956 and stood for almost 60 years.

"Well, I woke up this morning and someone said the church burned down. I said, 'what?'", said Church Member Richard Modafferi.

Grace Lutheran Chruch caught fire at 9:45 pm last night due to an electrical problem and burned for approximately 50 minutes.

"We do believe that the fire is accidental and it started in the lobby part of the church near the basement," said Jeff Winchell, Senior Fire Investigator of the Broome County Emergency Services.

Mark Whitman arrived first at the scene. He lives five houses down on hazel drive.

"I seen fog and smoke and then I heard glass shatter and snapping. Then I ran on my bare feet to try and see if no one was in the church," said Whitman.

The vestal fire department arrived on the scene at 10:38 pm and extinguished the fire a little after midnight.

"The whole back lobby is completely consumed, the roof was caved in and everything is a total loss," said Winchell.

But one piece of the church was saved. A metal cross, carried in every Sunday by William Lutz for 20 years.

"Anybody who carries the cross and does this has to come from the heart. But you know, nobody got hurt. It's only a building and we can replace that," said Lutz.

Now The preschool will have its graduation tonight. Doug Fett, Chairman of the Congregation said members plan to rebuild the church from the ground up and have service this Sunday at 9:30 am outside in the parking lot.