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Fire damage to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church estimated at $17 million, cause still under investigation

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A historic church is gutted by a massive fire in downtown Milwaukee. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church burned while firefighters desperately tried to save the 140-year-old, three-towered structure.

The damage is estimated at nearly 400 times the amount it originally cost to build the church.  

Fire investigators and insurance adjusters have been in and out of the church all day Thursday.

The Milwaukee Fire Department estimates the fire caused $17 million worth of damage. $13 million of that damage is to the building and $4 is to the contents of the building.

The exact cause of the fire is not 100 percent sure, but investigators believe it started near the scaffolding on the roof where roofers were working at the time the fire started.

There was another flare up in the middle of the night which Milwaukee Fire says is nearly unavoidable for a fire of this magnitude.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, firefighters said at one point 110 firefighters were working the scene. The first 911 call came in at 3:45 p.m. and firefighters were on scene at 3:47 p.m. 

People with close ties to the church have been passing by all day to remember what it's meant to them, “I know the church is not just brick and mortar. It's really founded on Christ and his gifts, but at the same time, there are emotional ties. I was married here, my kids were baptized here. My father was buried through trinity. So it's hard,” said Christian Himsel.

The fire department says it will be up to the church and insurance companies to see if the building is salvageable.

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