Daily Journal staff report

BEECHER — Around 1:30 p.m. Sunday, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Beecher was hosting its annual Oktoberfest when a fire started in the steeple. The historic church — founded in 1865 — was destroyed in the blaze.

Beecher Fire Protection District was already on scene in response to a medical call when the fire was discovered at 1407 W. Church Road, according to a press release from the district. While EMS crew members were treating the patient, they were alerted that there was a fire in the church.

The crew members contacted Laraway Communications Center and helped evacuate the church. The first fire suppression crew to arrive was met with heavy smoke and fire in the north end of the church in the area of the steeple.

Additional resources were then called to the scene through a MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) request. Crews then attempted to make entry via the south end of the church and found heavy smoke and fire conditions in the vaulted ceiling of the chapel area.

Knowing at this point that the church could not be saved, they declared it a defensive operation and worked to keep the fire from spreading to surrounding structures. The box alarm was elevated again and more resources were called to the scene.

In total, more than 30 emergency agencies responded to the scene throughout the afternoon. The effort included 10 engine companies, five truck/tower ladders, 12 tenders, five ambulances and 11 chief officers.

One firefighter was transported to the hospital for heat exhaustion, and three firefighters were treated and released on the scene, according to the press release.

As the closest fire hydrant was approximately a mile away, many of the responding crews helped bring water to the site. An approximate total of 91,000 gallons of water was used to extinguish the fire. The origin and cause of the fire are currently under investigation by the fire investigators of the Beecher Fire Protection District, MABAS 27 Origin and Cause Team, Illinois State Fire Marshal and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

The following agencies responded to the scene: Crete Fire Department, Grant Park Fire Protection District, Crete Township Fire Protection District, Cedar Lake Fire Department, University Park Fire Department, South Chicago Heights Fire Department, Monee Fire Protection District, Sauk Village Fire Department, Park Forest Fire Department, Steger Fire Department, Steger Estates Fire Department, Matteson Fire Department, Momence Fire Protection District, Manteno Fire Protection District, Lake Dalecaria Fire Department, St. John Fire Department, Richton Park Fire Department, Flossmoor Fire Department, Thornton Fire Department, Manhattan Fire Protection District, Kankakee Fire Department, Dyer Fire Department, Crown Point Fire Department, Lowell Fire Department, Wilmington Fire Protection District, Bourbonnais Fire Protection District, New Lenox Fire Protection District, Frankfort Fire Protection District, Chicago Heights Fire Department, Glenwood Fire Department, Tinley Park EMS, Beecher Emergency Management Agency, Beecher Police Department and Will County Sheriff’s Office.