Vallejo First Baptist Church bell tower taken down before collapsing

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ByLilian Kim KGO logo
Monday, August 25, 2014
Church bell tower gets torn down before it collapses
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After a major earthquake struck nearby Napa, the bell tower of a church in Vallejo had to be taken down.

VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) -- A bell tower at a Vallejo church is dangerously close to coming down. The church sits right along busy Highway 29.

Brick by brick, piece by piece, the old bell tower slowly came apart by work crews Monday night. The pastor of First Baptist Church Vallejo alerted the city as soon as church staff noticed significant cracks Monday morning. City officials hired a crew right away to dismantle the top portion of the tower before it could collapse on its own.

"The top parapet was leaning and coming apart and the wind could blow it over. We actually rocked it with our hands. It was going to come off," Rev. Al Marks from First Baptist Church Vallejo said.

City officials say Vallejo sustained about $5 million in earthquake damage. Security video shows just how violent the shaking was Sunday morning. Much of the damage is in Downtown Vallejo. The post office near city hall has been red-tagged, and so has the old Crowley's department store building. Its roof collapsed -- a huge setback for Vallejo's struggling downtown.

"It's a shame. They put a lot of work trying to revitalize Downtown Vallejo into that and it was absolutely gorgeous inside," Vallejo resident Tom Morgan said.

As for First Baptist Church Vallejo, it should be able to reopen not too long after crews finish the job. The church was built in the 1920s, retrofitted in the 1990's. Members of the congregation say it's sad watching pieces of the bell tower come down, but in the end, they'll be just fine.

"I remember going up there with my dad. I was like, 'Oh wow, this is cool, this is like a castle.' And so it was just a great childhood memory for me," church member Austin Austile said.

"The building is only a building. It's not the church. The church is the members of that building," Church member Michael Showalter said.

First United Methodist Church of Napa members met with a structural engineer Monday to discuss the fate of the quake damaged building. The facade of the sanctuary has pulled away from the main structure so it's been red tagged. No one will be able to enter until further notice from building inspectors. Most of the rest of the church is OK to use except the heavily damaged office area.

Vallejo residents can report concerns or any damage caused by the South Napa Earthquake by emailing officials at:

VIDEO: Aftershocks expected in Bay Area over next 7 days

As a result of Sunday's earthquake, local agencies are recommending the following safety precautions be taken:

* Check for damage, especially to utilities, foundation, walls, and chimneys.

* If you smell or hear leaking gas, open your windows and get everyone out of the building right away. Turn off gas at service (if residential) and notify PG&E immediately. Customers can contact PG&E at or call 1-800-PGE-5002.

* If you smell smoke, get everyone out of the building. Use a fire extinguisher to put out small fires. Don't use water on electrical or gas fires.

* Inspect your home's foundation, walls, and chimneys. Look and listen for any signs of possible collapse.

* Please be patient if your power is out. Utility providers are working to restore services. For more information or assistance please contact PG&E.

* If you are experiencing low water pressure or interrupted water service please contact your local water provider.

* Aftershocks could be possible.

* If the shaking starts again, protect yourself by staying away from windows and taking cover in a door frame or under a sturdy piece of furniture.

* If you are outdoors, stay in the open away from buildings, bridges, signs and overhead wires.

* Remain calm and do an assessment of those in your building and on your block if it is safe to do so.

Bay City news contributed to this report.

ABC7 News contributed to this story.