Pastor of church blocks from 4-alarm blaze: ‘Any of these churches are a spark away from fire’

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Rev. Jonah Burakowski

MILWAUKEE -- Fire officials said Wednesday, May 16 damage is estimated at $17 million after the four-alarm fire at the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Milwaukee on Tuesday. Church members on Wednesday were able to salvage some priceless items.

More than 100 years of history was destroyed in just hours.

"First, we're thankful nobody died," said Rev. Jonah Burakowski, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.

St. John's on the Hillside Lutheran Church

St. John's on the Hillside Lutheran Church

When you take a look at the crawl spaces at St. John's on the Hillside Lutheran Church near 8th and Vliet in Milwaukee, you can understand how the Trinity Lutheran Church went up in flames so quickly.

Pastor William Schaefer

"Any of these churches are a spark away from a fire," said Pastor William Schaefer.

Pastor William said his congregation formed just a year after Trinity.

"It's just about six blocks as the crow flies," said Pastor Schaefer.

Once known as the "City of Steeples," Milwaukee has lost part of its skyline after Tuesday's fire.

"Broke my heart. Honestly -- it's like my sister losing a home," said Pastor Schaefer.

Pastor William Schaefer

St. John's on the Hillside Lutheran Church

Pastor Schaefer said St. John's is offering space if needed.

"Our hearts are open to them, but then so are our doors," said Pastor Schaefer.

Trinity Lutheran officials said Wednesday offers for assistance have come in from coast to coast. They were able to get a look inside the church on Wednesday.

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church

"We actually were pleasantly surprised how much was there. All of the artwork that was up there, including the cross that was brought over by Germany back when the first group came over," said Pastor Burakowski.

Pastor Burakowski said from communion sets to clothes, there was plenty to be thankful for after this tragedy.

"We are very committed to keeping Trinity here," said Burakowski.

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church after massive fire

Fire at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Milwaukee

"Whatever we can do to help, we share the same vision for a powerful future because we have a powerful Lord Jesus," said Pastor Schaefer.

There was work being done on the roof at Trinity Lutheran, and fire officials said that's where the fire started, but the cause remains under investigation.

Trinity officials said church leaders will meet on Thursday -- and there will be church services on Sunday, but it's not known where yet.

Church officials said Wednesday they have not set up a GoFundMe page to raise money after this fire. If you'd like to donate, you're asked to CLICK HERE. 

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