A massive New York City fire that broke out in a vacant building Saturday morning destroyed the neighboring Middle Collegiate Church, a historic landmark in the city that dates back to the 19th century.
According to NBC’s New York City affiliate station, WNBC, the fire broke out at a building in the East Village neighborhood around 5 a.m., with the blaze ultimately resulting in six alarms.
The local outlet reported that the fire eventually spread to the church next door and left both buildings “uninhabitable.”
Out of nearly 200 firefighters who were dispatched to fight the blaze, four suffered minor injuries as a result of the fire, according to New York City Fire Department Assistant Chief John Hodgens.
“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,” the fire department said in a statement.
“Fire had extended into the church on 2nd Avenue and also into another building on 7th Street. We had all of our units in position and we were quickly able to contain it to that area,” it added.
FDNY Assistant Chief John Hodgens provides an update from the scene of this morning’s 6-alarm fire at 48 East 7th Street in Manhattan. Read more: https://t.co/Pd7XgtfwlD. Photos shown here were taken earlier in the operation. (Photo Credit: FDNY Response Videos) pic.twitter.com/M5smab1nmi
— FDNY (@FDNY) December 5, 2020
According to the church’s website, the building located at 7th Street and 2nd Avenue was built in 1892, although the congregation dates back to 1628, making the Collegiate Churches of New York the oldest continuously active church in North America.
The church’s bell tower houses New York’s Liberty Bell, which is said to have rung at the birth of the country in 1776. The church says that the bell has since rung for the inauguration and death of every American president and also rings during New York City events, including in remembrance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The church released a statement Saturday following the fire, with the Rev. Jacqui Lewis writing that the community was “devastated and crushed that our beloved physical sanctuary at Middle Collegiate Church has burned.”
“And yet no fire can stop Revolutionary Love,” Lewis continued. “We thank God that there has been no loss of life.”
“We’ve been worshiping and doing our ministry in digital spaces since March and that’s what we’ll be doing tomorrow,” Lewis added.
Lewis wrote that the church is scheduled to hold a virtual vigil Saturday to “grieve and mourn” the loss of the building at 7 p.m. EST.