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Renovations begin on Kalispell's historic St. Matthews Church

The 1910 church was heavily damaged in a May fire
Posted at 8:04 AM, Aug 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-09 16:36:17-04

The restoration of the historic St. Matthews Catholic Church in Kalispell is expected to be complete by the end of the month.

Crews are rebuilding after a devastating fire that damaged the basement and sanctuary and church leaders are thanking the community for their support.

The church is slowly re building since the devastating May 12 fire when Father Rod Ermatinger noticed smoke coming out of the church’s windows.

Multiple agencies responded but the damage was extensive throughout the basement and the sanctuary.

Built in 1910, Kalispell firefighters determined the fire started in the basement kitchen. Since May, services have been in the church’s gym.

Months later St. Matthews is slowly rebuilding with the help of disaster response team from Dayspring Restoration.

“The state of the church when we started was about three days after the fire," Jerry Leaming recalled. "It was in total shambles and it was heavily smoke damage and lots of fire damage in the basement itself."

He told MTN News that restoring the historic church has been challenging.

There are original beams and stone walls in the church that needs special attention and care. Additionally, the church’s domes trap smoke damage so crews have been working extra hard to clean those areas.

“Making sure that we can get all the odor out of the building, out of the dome areas, some of the more complicated structures of the building,” explained Leaming.

Father Rod Ermatinger says the cost for repairs isn't known yet, but the church is planning on changing and updating a few things in the sanctuary.

“Well, the floorings going to be different, as well as the heating. We lost the boiling system which we put in when I first came here about nine years ago, so we’re going to have radiant heating so the heating will be in the floor,” Father Ermatinger said.

He also wants to to thank the community for its continued support.

“Be it Catholic churches, Christian churches, be it the county fairgrounds. Just people coming by dropping off cards. Even kids that have been having lemonade stand sales for us that don’t even know the parish -- they just know the church."

The restoration process is expected to wrap up at the end of this month and then a contractor will start the reconstruction work.