Wesley United destroyed by fire
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD — A longtime Marshfield church was destroyed by fire, just hours after Sunday services.
The Marshfield Fire & Rescue Department was called to Wesley United Methodist Church at Third Street and Maple Avenue downtown just after 2 p.m. Sept. 2. Deputy Chief Troy Weiland said his crews encountered flames and smoke showing on the south side of the structure when they arrived within minutes of being called out.
“We initiated what we call a transitional attack, and tried to make entry and do an offensive attack. It was difficult to get at due to the plexiglass windows on the outside and glass windows that held that heat, and eventually we had to switch tactics and go to what we call a defensive attack and fight it from the outside just for everyone’s safety.”
Weiland said a back-hoe was brought in so crews could attack the fire from the outside, and that’s done a lot — especially with older brick structures like Wesley.
“The structure itself is metal truss. It’s a compound structure, so it’s got brick on the outside and wood walls on the inside,” he said. “That makes it difficult to get at the fire. That’s why we had to attack it from the outside because we couldn’t put people safely on the inside due to the possibility of collapse. It also means that we have to bring in the heavy equipment. It makes it look worse, but that’s the only way we can get the fire out. That structure’s gonna be a total loss at this point anyway.”
Weiland said no one was inside the church when the blaze broke out. Nearby homes just to the north of the church were evacuated as a precaution. Firefighters from the towns of Richfield and Hewitt helped Marshfield crews battle the blaze and subsequent hot spots into the night, and 40-50 people fought the fire at various times. A cause of the fire has not been determined.
Wesley United Board President Larry Shortess got back to town about 5:30 p.m. to find out his longtime church home had been destroyed.
“I came here in the early 60’s, and all my kids were confirmed here, so, yeah, it’s tough, but we’ll get through it.”
Shortess says the board will be in emergency session at noon Sept. 3 to set a course of action for responding to life after the fire.
“I’m sure we will replace it. I’m pretty sure that we’re pretty well-covered insurance-wise, so keep us in your prayers. We need all the help we can get. But our faith is very, very strong, and we’ll get through it.”
Shortess said the church currently has roughly 50-60 parishioners, and an offsite parsonage for its pastor. The church was also home to the Marshfield Area Respite Care Center, the Sweet Adelines, and a music school.
What began as the Methodist Episcopal Church built its first church in 1882 at the corner of Sixth Street and Central Avenue, then moved the structure to Third and Maple in 1886. That facility survived the Great Marshfield Fire the following year, and an adjoining parsonage was added in 1891.
In December 1901, the congregation had just completed an entire rebuild on the Maple Avenue facility. An elaborate dedication had been planned for the following Sunday to showcase the work that had been done.
At 3 a.m. on Dec. 19, a fire started inside the church. When the fire was finally under control, all that was left of the building were the outside walls and its roof. The interior had been completely destroyed.
The fire was later attributed to the stove in the lecture room. Fully covered by insurance, the church building was restored. It later underwent multiple renovations before being replaced by a new structure in 1921.