NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A three-alarm fire destroyed a historic church overnight in Brooklyn.

Flames broke out around 12:30 a.m. Thursday at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on East 23rd Street near Avenue Z in Sheepshead Bay.

The roof collapsed, destroying the main sanctuary and damaging the steeple, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported.

“We actually saw some flames go shooting out of the tower in front of the actual church,” witness Justin Eagle said.

It took 130 firefighters two hours to get the blaze under control.

The parish’s organist was the first member to arrive and see the damage.

“Somebody called me and told me we don’t have a church anymore,” Jacob Richard said. “It didn’t seem like – it seemed so surreal. How do you mean we don’t have a church? We just had a fire 11 years ago.”

The 120-year-old church fell victim to another fire in 2007. That time, the parish hall was damaged, but the front sanctuary survived.

“Second time, it’s not easy at all,” said Shirley Fletcher, who’s been worshiping there for 40 years. “Very upsetting, very, very – so hard to believe. I was so shocked.”

Congregants say the church is more than a house of worship. It’s also home to several community outreach groups and a local theater troupe.

“I’ve been here over 30 years. My children were confirmed at this church. My grandchildren were baptized at this church,” Loreen Howard said. “It will build back. Emmanuel has a special place in our hearts.”

The cause of Thursday’s fire is under investigation. Fortunately, no one was hurt.


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