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Fire chief: Walls of Coshocton church heavily damaged by fire can be saved, rebuilding plans underway

The firm is now working to obtain a permit to begin repairs on the building.

COSHOCTON, Ohio — A beloved Coshocton church that sustained heavy damage from a fire last week could be salvaged.  

After flames engulfed the Grace United Methodist Church, located at 422 Walnut Street, on Friday, investigators initially thought it was ruined beyond repair. 

The Coshocton Fire Department and several neighboring departments worked to contain the flames and no one was injured in the process. At the time, Coshocton Safety Services Manager Max Crown said there was no real structural damage, but the church would still need to be torn down. 

In an update Monday, Coshocton Fire Chief Russell Dreher said engineering firm Bail Fish Services surveyed the site and determined the walls could be saved. 

The firm is now working to obtain a permit to begin repairs on the building. Once construction begins, Dreher said the roads surrounding the church will be closed, including Walnut Street. 

Considered a longtime staple of the community, the Grace United Methodist Church has operated in Coshocton for more than 100 years. 

"I was baptized here, I was wed here. This building holds a lot of memories, but what I feel most importantly about... a building can be replaced, human life can't," said Coshocton Mayor Mark Mills. 

The church has been apart of 90-year-old Max Olinger's life as long as he can remember.    

“I grew up with it I went to Sunday School there for years,” said Olinger.  

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Dreher said crews are looking into the possibility that a lightning strike caused the flames. 

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