Motor bearing blamed for church fire call

Hillsboro firefighters responded to two different location in less than an hour late Thursday afternoon.

The first caller, at 4:17 p.m., reported smoke in the First Mennonite Church sanctuary, 102 S. Ash, said Fire Chief Ben Steketee.

The second fire was called in at 4:56 p.m., involving a controlled burn at Jade and 175th, that had gotten away from a farmer.

The smoke-filled sanctuary was blamed on a bearing that went out in an electric motor used to push air into the church pipe organ, he said.

When he arrived one minute after the call, Steketee said there was a lot of smoke inside the church.

After locating the source, Assistant Fire Chief Todd Helmer disconnected the motor and set up ventilation to start blowing in fresh air.

Marvin Funk, member of the stewardship committee, and Bob Jantz, who does custodial services, removed the motor and took it out of the building, Steketee said.

Most of the smokey-smell dissipated within a short time, and was bearly noticeable at Sunday service, said First Mennonite pastor Randy Smith.

As a precaution, Smith said, the organ pipes will be cleaned and a compatible motor is being ordered.

?We are optimistic, we will have the organ back by Easter Sunday,? he said.

Smith was also grateful to Asia Frye, who went inside to get playground equipment.

?She smelled the smoke,? he said, ?and is probably more sensitive to that (because of the fire at her home in late January),? he said. ?She then called 911.

?Ordinarily there wouldn?t be anyone there at that time.?

The estimated damage to the motor and replacement costs were unavailable pending the insurance adjuster?s assessment.

As firefighters were wrapping things up by removing hoses and ventilation fans from the church location, a second call sent a brush truck and water tanker to a controlled burn.

Firefighter Jason Plett was dispatched to that fire, but no damage was reported.

As spring approaches, Steketee is reminding anyone planning a controlled burn to call the Marion County Sheriff?s office, 620-382-2144.

If someone is going to burn brush piles (tree limbs, wood), they are encouraged to use their best judgment, depending on wind conditions or dryness.

However, if someone is planning an acreage burn, the sheriff?s department mandates winds must be 5 miles per hour or less and no more than 20 miles per hour.

Steketee said it?s important to call dispatch when planning a controlled burn for a few reasons.

For example, if a motorist sees a fire, they might call ?911? to report it.

?If dispatch has no record,? he said, ?they will send the fire department to respond.?

In addition, Steketee said, that if firefighters see smoke and aren?t aware of any controlled burns in the area, they will also respond.

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