Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Cathedral begins recovery from December arson attack

Story and photos by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Feb. 8, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Scaffolding fills the interior of the Cathedral as workers begin preparations for the restoration process. (IR photo)

The arson fire that burned briefly in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes on Dec. 5 caused minimal fire damage, but it generated considerable smoke, and the smoke damage in turn has closed the Cathedral for “six to eight weeks,” according to Bill Oakley, the Cathedral’s superintendent of buildings and grounds. But there is hope; with any luck, the restoration work, “including on the two organs,” will be “done in time for Easter,” he said.

As of this writing, all of the Cathedral’s pews have been removed and taken away to a storage facility, replaced by scaffolding. Both the new and the old altars and a few other unmovable fixtures are covered with black plastic, as are all the carpeted areas.

“The dollies that the scaffolding rolls around on are set on plywood sheets,” Oakley said, “so we’re hoping that the carpets don’t get damaged so they have to be replaced, too,” but that is by no means certain. The carpet in the vestibule of the Cathedral, where the fire was set, has already been replaced because of direct fire damage.

Smoke caused damage to the entire interior of the Cathedral.

“There is soot from the smoke up the walls,” Oakley said. “The people from Mr. Service (a Spokane smoke damage cleaning service) and the insurance adjusters came in, and I showed them this (west) wall, and at that time the Mr. Service people cleaned the wall, and I said that it wasn’t satisfactory. So the insurance adjuster said that they would pay for cleaning and painting the walls. At that point I wanted a commitment on the ceiling, too, and (the adjuster) said, ‘We can’t do that until we can take a swab to it and clean it.’”

Oakley came to an agreement with the insurance adjuster: if Oakley himself swabbed the area over the windows and found soot, the insurers would pay for painting the ceiling, too.

“I put up a 40-foot ladder that day, and (the adjuster) came back that afternoon and witnessed the swabbing.” Oakley said. “They have a special sponge, and I used that to wipe the area up over the windows. If what you get on the sponge is gray, that’s dust, but if it’s black, that’s soot from smoke. I wiped down up over one of the windows, and the sponge came back jet black. So the insurance adjuster committed to cleaning and painting the ceiling, too.”

The cleaning of all the Cathedral’s interior walls and the ceiling are being done by Mr. Service, Inc., of Spokane. The painting of the walls and ceiling will be done by Everhart Painting, Ltd., of Spokane. “They already did the vestibule,” Oakley said, a job he termed “beautiful.” In addition to painting the building’s interior, the pipes of both of the Cathedral’s organs will be completely disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled by Marcello & Company, of Portland, Ore.

Father Steve Dublinski, rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, celebrates the noon Mass in O’Connor Hall. Liturgies have been moved to the hall while the Cathedral’s interior is restored after a December arson attack. (IR photo)

During the restoration/renovation process, all Masses are being celebrated in O’Connor Hall, just south of the Cathedral itself.

“It’s standing room only on Sundays,” Oakley said.

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