Fire damages New Utrecht Church steeple

June 17, 2011 Heather Chin
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If lightning strikes are an act of God, then New UtrechtReformed Church may have experienced a roundabout miracle.

The church’s parish house steeple was struck by lightningonThursday, June 9, during a round of thunderstorms, setting itablaze and drawing three fire companies – Engine 243/Ladder 168 inBath Beach, Engine 284/Ladder 149 in Dyker Heights, Engine330/Ladder 172 in Bensonhurst – to its grassy expanse along 84thStreet and 18th Avenue. Fifteen neighbors had called 9-1-1.

The response was magnificent. I guess when they hear it’s achurch, they run, said Susan Hanyen, a New Utrecht parishioner whoserves as the vice-president on their consistory. They had to snapthe chains on our wonderful wrought iron gates to get around. We’reso grateful that they went the extra mile [because] we havewonderful stained glass and they did not touch that.

Hanyen came to the church from her home in Bay Ridge afterreceiving a panicked phone call from the church sexton, MichaelBlydenburgh, who Hanyen credits for making sure firefighters hadaccess to the building immediately and without having to breakwindows.

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The fire was out less than 90 seconds after fire trucks arrived,but water was poured over the embers for 15 minutes, just in case.The damage is confined to the steeple portion of the parish house,which is separated from the main building and second floor byaround 15 to 20 feet of brick. After the mix of water, ash andplaster was cleaned up, the church was even able to hold servicesthat Sunday.

When you think about what could have been, it’s a nice miracle.Everybody was so caring of us and we’re still there, stillfunctioning, said Hanyen. We have our concert on Saturday, June18, and just to have our regular programs is so amazing. We’re justso grateful. There are angels all around.

A fundraiser will be held at a later date, once insuranceadjustors have completed their inspection.

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