LEXINGTON, Ill. (AP) — A fire early Wednesday caused extensive smoke damage to a central Illinois church, authorities said.

Crews were called to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Lexington after a passerby discovered smoke coming from the building around 3:30 a.m., Lexington Fire Chief Jason Bierkenbeil said.

“It took us a while to find the source of the fire because the church was filled with thick smoke,” he said. “We were lucky in that damage was no worse than it was.”

Parishioners at the scene said the fire appeared to have been limited to an area in the center of the sanctuary near the floor, The Pantagraph reported.

Fire damage to the structure was limited but smoke damage appeared to have been extensive, covering walls and ceilings, Bierkenbeil said. Firefighters, who remained on the scene around 8 a.m., were running fans to remove as much smoke as possible.

An estimate of the financial damage to the building was not immediately available.

The wood frame building was built in 1898 and serves Catholics in the Lexington area, 100 miles (161 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.


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