St. Rafael Fire: Relying on Faith After the Flames

By: Natalie Swaby
By: Natalie Swaby

The sadness could be seen in the streets as crowds watched a Madison landmark burn.

"We could see the black smoke pouring out and then when we got up by the ramp up here, you could see the flames shooting out through the roof," says witness Sandy Jackson.

The fire started at 5:30 Monday morning. Crews from all over Madison doused water on the flames, but the fierce fire was enough to make the roof collapse, destroying the 150 year old building. It also created a major safety concern over a newly installed million dollar steeple that is over a hundred feet tall.

"Where the actual metal part begins, from that portion up we were concerned about the structural integrity," notes Fire Chief Debra Amesqua.

Contractors were called in to bring it down, but late this afternoon it was decided that the steeple is stable enough to stay. Now a main focus is dealing with the grief of this loss.

Madison Alderman Mike Verveer says, "all of the baptisms, first communions, confirmations, weddings and funerals, it's untold numbers of folks throughout the history of Madison that have memories in that building."

And while the building may be crumbling down, Saint Rafaels Monsignor is finding strength in his faith.

"I keep looking at that cross on top of the steeple, and the sunlight and, you know, our faith is based, not around buildings. It's based on the One who rose, and so, the theme of Easter is 'Light comes out of darkness,' and so faith gets us through," tells Msgr. Paul Swain.

Crews are still investigating, trying to determine what caused this fire.

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