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Historic church considered a total loss after fire, cause still unknown

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Thirty firefighters, 5 Rockford Fire engines and 3 ladders respond to a nearly 150-year-old abandoned church fire Wednesday night.

The church, 607 Walnut St., caught fire on the north side of the building at 6:24 p.m., according to Rockford Fire and quickly spread because of the wooden structure.

Once the fire is contained, a demolition crew will help demolish the weakened church, which has been abandoned for several years. Rockford Fire Chief Derek Bergsten said he anticipates Kishwaukee and Walnut streets to be closed until morning.

Rockford firefighters are fighting the blaze defensively because of the intensity of the fire and because the church has sat empty. Crews are wearing protective clothing because of asbestos in the roof tiles. Chief Bergsten said no injuries have been reported at the time of the 8 p.m. media breifing.

A cause of the fire is still unknown. When 13 WREX asked Chief Bergsten whether the fire is suspicious, he said there was no power to the church, which rules out an electrical issue. Investigators interviewed neighbors and ask the public for any information on how the fire started.

According to inscriptions on the church, it was formerly the Rockford Masonic Cathedral. The year 1869 was etched into one of its walls. At one point it became the Metro Christian Center.

13 WREX reached out to the city for information on how long the former church has sat empty. The city said it is looking for that information.

If anyone has any connections or information about the history of the church, please email

This is a developing story.

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13 WREX Newsroom

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