Firefighters credited for saving ‘the heart of the church’ in Hubbard church fire

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Fr. Michael Sweirz says watching firefighters carry the Tabernacle out of the fire is an image he'll never forget

HUBBARD, Ohio (WKBN) – Heroic efforts by several firefighters saved an important part of St. Patrick Church on Monday. Fr. Michael Sweirz says watching them carry the Tabernacle out of the fire is an image he’ll never forget.

“Once you see the smoke coming out, it kinda sinks in that this is really happening,” said firefighter and parishioner Fred Behnke.

What started as an alarm drop for Behnke quickly became a battle to save his beloved parish in Hubbard.

“Once we got inside and I heard that the floor by the sanctuary collapsed that kind of got me worried,” Behnke said.

Behnke and his family are active parishioners at St. Patrick Church. He calls the parish his second home and as a Eucharistic minister, he knows the importance of the Tabernacle.

“It’s the heart of the church,” Behnke said.

He and two other firefighters risked their lives to save the Tabernacle, sliding it across a ladder on top of a collapsing floor.

“A couple of the guys, they could tell in my eyes that hey, we were gonna get this. They could tell that I was on a mission to get this,” Behnke said.

Behnke says he’s thankful St. Patrick’s is still standing. He says investigators believe the fire started in the conference room. Those doors were closed, and that helped prevent the fire from spreading.

He’s also thankful for the work of the dozen fire departments that responded to the fire.

“Knowing that it’s still standing, it means a lot,” Behnke said. “From what I understand, they’re going to be able to repair the damages and they’re already working on that now.”

Mayor Ben Kyle also extended his gratitude to the firefighters:

As services, for the time being, are taking place in the Parish Center, Behnke says he’ll be there on Sunday distributing the Eucharist for the 11 a.m. Mass.

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