A fast-moving fire gutted an over 100 year-old church early Saturday in the East Village, a total loss for worshippers and neighbors who revered the historic structure, the FDNY said.
More than 200 firefighters navigated heavy rains as they battled the five-alarm fire that broke out just before 4:50 a.m. on the first floor of a five-story vacant building on East 7th Street off Second Ave.
The flames quickly spread to the Middle Collegiate Church at 112 Second Avenue, FDNY officials said.
A little more than an hour after the fire beganm, the roof of the Gothic Revival-style Reformed Church built in 1892 was engulfed.
Dramatic video posted online captured orange and red flames shooting out of the windows.
Four firefighters suffered minor injuries, said FDNY Assistant Chief John Hodgens.
There was no indication as to the cause of the fire, which is under investigation, he told reporters at the scene, adding the vacant East 7th Street building had previously caught fire in February.
The FDNY responded to the massive blaze in three minutes, said Hodgens, who called the heavily damaged church and East 7th structure “total losses.”
“On arrival, we had heavy fire showing from the corner building on East 7th Street. … We knew this was going to be a big operation. The fire extended to the church on 2nd Avenue and also into the church on 7th Street. We had all our units in position and we quickly were able to contain it to that area.”
The blaze shattered windows and shook the spirit of executive church minister Amanda Ashcraft.
“It’s horribly devastating. This has been a year already with racial inequity, economic inequity, a global pandemic and now our church is burning, it’s horrible. We know that God is with us, that God did not start this fire, this is not part of God’s plan,” she said, adding, “The sanctuary looks pretty ruined.”
Ashcraft, however, is keeping the faith.
“One thing we know about God is that God works in mysterious ways, and we know that the rebuilding is going to look a lot different than anybody thinks. We’re going to figure out how to continue to be a church, how to continue to do our love work and our justice work in a meaningful way.”
Tom Smucker, 74, who has been going to the East Village church for 35 years, called the fire “an absolute tragedy” and said the now-scorched sanctuary was renovated 10 to 15 years ago.
“It’s a beautiful old church with a very progressive congregation and staff. It’s got a long history. Very involved in the neighborhood,” he said. “I believe we will bounce back, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Katrina, 44, a Middle Collegiate member since 2016, called the fire “heartbreaking. A church is not just a building, but still, the foundation, who we are as a community, is that building. So to watch it literally gutted is devastating.”
The church is co-affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Reformed Church in America, according to its website.
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