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Valley City church damaged by fire

VALLEY CITY, N.D. - An early morning fire at a church here Monday caused upward of $1 million in damage, leaving a congregation heartbroken.

The first 911 call of the blaze at Faith Lutheran Church came in at 3:41 a.m., said Gary Retterath, Valley City fire chief.

When he arrived on scene at 251 4th St. NE, there was fire and smoke coming out of the east side of the building, where its main entrance and some offices are, Retterath said.

"There was smoke and heat all over," he said.

With about 24 firefighters working, the fire was out in about four hours, he said.

Retterath remained on scene through the afternoon, assisting a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent and a state fire marshal with the investigation.

The cause of the fire was unknown Monday.

No one was at the church at the time of the fire, so no one was hurt, Retterath said. Judging by the amount of damage, the fire "had to have been burning for a while" before the first call, he said.

"I think everyone is pretty heartbroken," said Tory Hart, council president for the church.

The about 900-member congregation is fortunate, though, Hart said, because its members are strong and working toward recovery.

Faith Lutheran Church's council met Monday and designated a building committee to handle the fire's aftermath, including possibly repairing and rebuilding, Hart said.

Sun reporter Charly Haley can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at

Charly Haley

Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.