Cold weather puts a damper on Community Covenant

By Mary M. Rall
Community Covenant Church

James and Karen Binniker sing during the Thanksgiving Eve Service, which was featured in the gym Nov. 26 while repairs were made to the sanctuary.

James and Karen Binniker sing during the Thanksgiving Eve Service, which was featured in the gym Nov. 26 while repairs were made to the sanctuary.

Community Covenant Church didn’t escape the recent cold snap unscathed, as below-freezing temperatures froze the church’s fire suppression system pipes, causing them to burst the night of Nov. 21.

Building Manager Cheri McDonald was enjoying an evening out with her son and daughter-in-law, Jake and Theresa McDonald, when she was first notified there was a problem at the church.

“I received the first call at 9:20 p.m., which was a supervisory call,” Cheri said. “They said there was not a fire, they just needed to let someone know.”

Cheri didn’t let the notification that something was amiss go unheeded, though, and said she arrived at the church at about 11 p.m. to identify the source of the alert.

“When we came around the corner and looked at the building, all the emergency lights were flashing,” she said. “When we walked in, I could hear the rush of water.”

Cheri said she then turned off the alarm and followed the sound of surging water into the sanctuary.

“The rush of water was really loud. The water was like a waterfall coming out of the ceiling,” Cheri said. “Sheetrock had fallen and was on the chairs. The water at that point was only on that side of the Sanctuary, so we figure it had happened less than five minutes before we walked in.”

Members of the Anchorage Fire Department arrived at Community Covenant about five minutes later and turned the water off, Cheri said. A restoration company was next to arrive, which pumped an estimated 1,500 gallons of water from the building Nov. 22 from 2-9 a.m.

According to Cheri, an investigation into the cause of the incident revealed the fire suppression system’s pipes froze when Eagle River experienced unseasonably low temperatures earlier in the month. The pipes subsequently thawed and broke when water began to pass through them at full force.

Although Community Covenant does have insurance, the damage to the building was quite extensive and impacted the sanctuary, cry room, coat room and the Mission Café, Cheri said, adding the full monetary amount of the damage is yet to be determined.

The immediate impact of the incident for the congregation resulted in the cancelation of the Nov. 22 worship services and in having the Nov. 26 Thanksgiving Eve Service in the gym. Regularly scheduled worship services resumed in the sanctuary Nov. 29, though, with large tarps covering holes in the ceiling where the sheetrock had fallen and been removed.

“Fire suppression system leaks have been fixed, tested and charged,” Cheri said, adding sheetrock that became wet will have to be removed and replaced, and any impacted carpet will be inspected for damage

“The fire suppression system is fixed,” she said. “They are in the process of finding out how much of the sheetrock on the walls is wet and will need to be replaced.”

All repairs are estimated to be completed by Jan. 1, Cheri said.

Lead Pastor Todd Michero said updates will be provided to the congregation as a greater understanding of the scope of the damage is determined and repairs progress.