A HISTORIC church in New York’s East Village was engulfed by a huge fire that spread from a burning apartment block early today.
Nearly 200 firefighters were at the scene this morning dousing the flames and desperately trying to save the Middle Collegiate Church from collapse.
The church is believed to have suffered extensive damage including the roof and stained glass windows.
The FDNY said the fire began around 5am at the corner of 7th street and 2nd Avenue, and quickly went to six alarms.
Witnesses claimed the blaze started in a restaurant space on the first floor of an apartment building, which was vacant after a previous fire, before it spread to the adjacent Middle Collegiate Church, reports ABC7NY.
FDNY Assistant Chief John Hodgens said the fire department knew it would become a “big operation.”
“Our units arrived in three minutes, very fast response time. Upon arrival we had heavy fire showing from the corner building on East 7th Street. We quickly transmitted additional alarms to get more help here,” Hodgens said.
The assistant fire chief said in a press release that four firefighters suffered minor injuries and the fire is under investigation by fire marshalls.
“We are going to be operating here for a while,” he said.
Dramatic images showed flames pouring from the windows of the residential building.
One Twitter user said at 5am: “Massive fire in the East Village. The air is filled with smoke and sirens.”
Others posted videos showing the street filled with dozens of emergency vehicles.
Video filmed just before dawn appeared to show the church fully on fire, with at least part of the roof collapsed.
The church said on Instagram that it would be holding “a time to grieve” the fire in a Zoom meeting.
“While we know the Church is not a building—we also hold that this physical space has been the site of revolutionary work,” the church wrote.
“It has been the connecting point for so many around new ideas, around progressive theology, around dismantling white supremacy.”
The post continued: “So come: Cry. Howl. Sob. Just bring yourself, and know that—however you’re feeling—it will be held in tender care.”
‘GOD IS WEEPING’
Church Minister Amanda Ashcraft arrived on the scene to see it burning.
She told ABC7: “Unfortunately, it seems like it was pretty bad.
“The sanctuary is not in good shape and we have some beautiful Tiffany stain glass windows that are gone.
“We are trying to save the steeple right now.”
She added: “God is also weeping right here with us.
“This is not anything that makes God happy — not part of God’s plan and God will be here with us as we rebuild from this moment.
“God is here in the water that we’re seeing washing over the building right now and God is absolutely crying with us.
“This is a horribly sad day for our congregation and for this neighborhood.”
The church, built in 1892, has been linked to key historical events in American history.
It was founded by Dutch settlers almost 400 years ago, and is one of the oldest continuously worshipping Protestant congregations in the country.
The bell tower of the present building is the home of New York’s Liberty Bell, which rang in the birth of the independent USA on July 9, 1776.
It has rung for the inauguration and death of every US President, and also rings during momentous New York City events, including remembering the 9/11 attacks.
Another fire swept through the same apartment block in February. It is believed to have started in a restaurant on the ground floor.
The church was not damaged on that occasion but five people were hurt.
View more information: https://www.the-sun.com/news/1917429/fire-new-york-east-village-five-storey-apartment-building-church/