PERTH AMBOY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A fast-moving fire ripped through a Perth Amboy church early Monday morning.
Fire crews were called to the St. Cyril and Methodius Church on Jacques Street around 1 a.m. on Monday after a report of smoke in the back of the church.
The rectory and two adjacent houses were evacuated as the fire quickly spread, gutting the church built in 1924.
One man who lives next door said he ran outside when he saw the fire.
“When I get here, the flames were so high. It was shooting everywhere,” Marcos Sedlmayer said.
The pastor in the rectory said he was awoken by fire fighters.
“I was like, in shock. It was burning. How bad it was, flames all over the place,” Rev. Mariusz Zochowski told CBS 2’s John Slattery.
The fire department said the blaze appeared to have started in the middle of the church and quickly went to the roof.
“Very high heat, very high flames and it just consumed the church at a rapid rate,” Perth Amboy Fire Chief Abraham Pitre said.
No one was hurt, but church members who live nearby were distraught.
“We feel devastated about this happening,” Andre Sanchez said.
The 89-year-old church is part of the Polish National Catholic Church, which split from the Catholics in the 1890s.
In recent years, the church has served mostly South Americans, Slattery reported.
“It’s just horrifying. It’s sad because it’s a church,” Victoria Nieves said.
The mayor said it’s a blow to the community.
“Especially for the new immigrants in the city that are the Peruvian community and many of them were parishioners here,” Mayor Wilda Diaz told Slattery.
Those who worship at the church are now talking about demolishing the remaining structure and starting over. The pastor and members of the church said they plan to rebuild.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined and remains under investigation.
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