‘Words can’t describe it’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 February 2023 at 8:29 pm

Inside of burned Lyndonville church shows extensive damage from smoke and fire

Photos by Tom Rivers

LYNDONVILLE – A statue of Joseph holding baby Jesus has soot and discoloration, even though it was a room and short hallway away from the sanctuary at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church which was extensively damaged from a fire today.

The church at 36 Lake Ave. suffered extensive damage after a fire destroyed much of the back of the building. The back holds a religious education classroom.

The pews have soot and soggy insulation on them. The walls have peeled the the former white interior is now gray and black after the fire.

Firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 3:41 a.m. after a motorist on Route 63 saw flames coming from the building.

The fire is currently ruled as accidental and fire investigators are working to pinpoint the cause. They are trying to rule out a few possibilities in the area where the fire started, said Justin Niederhofer, Orleans County’s emergency management director.

The condition of front of the church belies the extensive damage inside. Paul Davis Restoration, a Rochester company, boarded up broken windows, doors and other openings in the church today.

Gary Daum, a member of St. Joseph’s for 42 years and the church’s maintenance supervisor, points to where rafters are charred from the fire.

The altar suffered from the intense heat and flames.

“This is just devastating,” Daum said. “Words can’t describe it. We’ll get through this, but it will take some doing.”

Daum served as the lecter of the last mass at the church on Saturday. That Mass was in memory of his wife Diane’s parents.

The Daums said the church has been going through a transition in recent years. The sanctuary holds 125 people, but attendance for Mass was down to about 15 to 25 people. The religious education program also was discontinued with young families encouraged to take those classes at St. Mary’s in Medina.

St. Joseph’s was about to shift to offering only one Mass a week, Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. after having three services – a weekday Mass, one on Saturday and one on Sunday morning.

Some of the beams in the roof have been burned from fire. The blades on fans have melted and face downward, and the sanctuary’s globe lights are all broken.

Wet insulation is on pews in the front of the church sanctuary.

“Everything has been scorched, bent or covered in soot,” Daum said. “It’s all dirty.”

The basement also is flooded from the water to douse the flames.

Daum said there has been a stream of people driving by the church today, many stopping to offer their sympathy.

Even though attendance was down significantly in recent years, Daum said many residents have attended weddings and funerals at the site. They also have fond memories of a chicken barbecue where not too long ago, St. Joseph’s served 800 to 1,000 meals on the third Sunday in July. Daum was chairman of the event for many years. That summer social included live music and was well attended by the community.

The stained glass window of Joseph in the front of the church has five or six hairline cracks after today’s fire.

An official from the Western New York Catholic Diocese was on site today and will assist the church in deciding what is salvageable and the next steps for St. Joseph’s.

These statues of Joseph and baby Jesus are covered in soot. These statues are near the altar in the sanctuary.