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Cause of Westport Church Fire Still Being Probed

WESTPORT, Conn. – The cause of the blaze that devastated a portion of Westport's Saugatuck Congregational Church last week was still unknown as state and local officials continued their investigation.

"We're still working," Westport Fire Marshal Edward Zygmant said Monday. "We've met with the insurance investigators, and we're working in conjunction with them, the state Fire Marshal's Office and the Westport Detective Bureau."

The fire, which came just four days before Thanksgiving, broke out Nov. 20 shortly before 10 p.m. in the rear of the church. Zygmant said the heaviest fire damage was to a portion of the second and third floors.

"There was one room on the second floor that was totally destroyed," said Zygmant, who has walked through the church since the fire.

The lower portion, he said, sustained the most severe smoke and water damage. The rest of the church, including the sanctuary and the newly remodeled wing — which were spared from flames — also received smoke and water damage. However, he said those areas can be repaired.

"Firefighters did a spectacular job," he said. "The fact that the church is still standing is a credit to all those on the scene."

Zygmant, who has been with the department for more than 30 years, said this was the first Westport church fire he has seen. He could not estimate how long the church will be unusable, because that depends on the cleaning contractor.

Until then, Mary Ann West, communications director for the church, said services will be held elsewhere. This past Sunday, services were held at Temple Israel. However, West said no permanent plans have been made to hold services there.

The more than 50 AA meetings and other community and church organizations that met at the church have sought out other locations in the community to hold their gatherings, West said.

West also said plans are being made to relocate Saugatuck Nursery School, which is closed this week because of the fire.

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