UPDATED 3:45 PM PT – Saturday, December 5, 2020
A six-alarm fire claimed a century-old church and a vacant building in New York City’s East Village.
The fire was reported early Saturday on the first floor of a vacant building. However, within an hour the flames had grown and spread to the nearby Middle Collegiate Church, engulfing the roof in flames.
Middle Collegiate Church has a history that dates back to 1628 — this morning as a result of a fire in a neighboring building that was vacant, the church is no more. pic.twitter.com/NK2qXC0fVO
— ????? ?. ?????? (@MylesMill) December 5, 2020
Fire officials said first responder units arrived within three minutes of being notified. While civilians have not reported any injuries, residents said there were some “scary moments.”
“I opened the door to my room [and saw] smoke all in the stairwell, the hallways,” Kara Endhal stated. “I was like ‘we gotta get out, we gotta get out.’ So we started running down the stairs as the firefighters were coming up. Luckily our whole building got out.”
Nearly 200 firefighters were called to battle the inferno. Four of them suffered minor injuries.
Middle Collegiate Church on 2nd ave in the East Village is gutted by fire. It started next door in a tenement that was under construction. Ministers say services were being done digitally because of covid and they will continue. No serious injuries pic.twitter.com/2F5QgUUY3O
— Carol D’Auria (@CarolDAuria) December 5, 2020
The ‘Middle Collegiate Church’ was built in 1892 and was home to around 1,300 congregants. It was also home to New York’s Liberty Bell, which rang during the birth of the nation in July 1776.
Those who worked at the church said they feel as gutted as the building.
We are devastated and crushed that our beloved physical sanctuary at Middle Collegiate Church has burned.
And yet no fire can stop Revolutionary Love. pic.twitter.com/R8D3NVjAiY
— Rev. Jacqui Lewis, PhD (@RevJacquiLewis) December 5, 2020
“It’s absolutely the worst call ever and I feel like I’m living a nightmare right now,” Reverend Amanda Hambrick Ashcraft, executive minister for Middle Collegiate Church, stated. “Like walking here in the rain has compounded this whole year.”
Ashcraft said they’re “devastated and crushed” that their sanctuary burned, but she thanked God there was no loss of life. She noted the church has been worshiping in digital spaces since March.
One New York state senator compared the fire to the one that burned down the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 2019.
Fire marshals said they believe the fire was electrical and caused by building wiring, but noted the incident remains under investigation.