South Salem FD Saves Church Basement From Flooding

SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. – The basement of the manse of the South Salem Presbyterian Church flooded with 16 inches of water Sunday morning as a result of Tropical Storm Irene and the fire department was called in to rescue the structure.

“We had to put on waders to rescue the [water] heater, as well as my homemade pickles, wine and sauerkraut,” quipped Pastor Chip Andrus.

The manse is the living quarters for Andrus and his wife, which is located on the grounds of the church.

Andrus said the boiler was up on blocks, and the water still almost reached it.

“It happened Saturday night into Sunday morning,” he said. “We called the South Salem Fire Department and they came out straight away and pumped us out,”

While the firemen were pumping, the building’s carbon monoxide sensors went off, forcing them to retreat temporarily. Andrus said the firemen believe the carbon monoxide build-up was a result of the pump motors. After donning special suits and masks, firemen resumed pumping and were able to clear all but two inches of water from the basement.

“It got really busy after the carbon monoxide alarms went off,” Andrus said. “It started with just one truck, but after that another truck and whole bunch of other cars and people showed up.”

Andrus said that despite the tropical storm, worship services were not cancelled.

“We had four people show up,” he said. “For Presbyterians, it doesn’t matter. We are worshipping no matter what.”

Andrus had high praise for the South Salem Fire Department.

“They did a wonderful job; they are a great fire department,” he said. "We are very appreciative. They saved our stuff in the basement. We can’t say enough about them.”

Because of the quick actions of the fire department, there was no serious damage to the manse and Andrus said there would be no need to get the church’s insurance company involved. He said there was no structural damage to any of the church’s buildings or property other than some downed tree limbs, which have since been cleaned up. The church’s day-to-day business won’t be affected.

However, the church is still without power and Andrus said he was told it wouldn’t likely be restored until this weekend.


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