BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City firefighters battled a four-alarm fire that sent flames shooting through the steeple of a church that traces its origins back more than 150 years.
The fire broke out at the Urban Bible Fellowship Church in the 1200 block of East Eager Street on Saturday.
The church caught fire around 9:30 a.m. No injuries were reported.
The fire caused the steeple of the church to partially collapse.
“It’s an extreme safety concern,” Blair Adams, of the Baltimore City Fire Department, said. “It’s a huge steeple. It could fall and affect the adjacent dwellings. You just never know.”
— Baltimore Fire (@BaltimoreFire) March 28, 2020
The nearby Institute of Notre Dame was also damaged due to the fire, school officials said.
“The steeple of the church, which has become an unofficial iconic symbol for IND, did partially collapse, and IND did sustain some minimal damage. The extent of that damage is still being determined,” the Head of School Christine Szala said.
According to eyewitnesses on a Citizen App video, they heard a large boom and saw a fire burning on the steeple. Eyewitnesses said they believe a lightning strike caused the blaze. However, fire officials are still investigating to determine a cause.
“I seen this one coming up from North Avenue,” one witness said. “I was up in North Avenue and saw it all the way up there.”
You can watch the Citizen App video here, but a warning: this video is not safe for young kids due to language.
The Baltimore Archbishop’s office also shared prayers to help extinguish the fire quickly.
The former St. James the Less Roman Catholic Church in East Baltimore, which closed was closed in 1986, is on fire. It is now an evangelical church. The Institute of Notre Dame is next door. We pray the fire can be extinguished quickly. pic.twitter.com/G0ZuPjYHKA
— ArchdioceseBaltimore (@archbalt) March 28, 2020
The church, previously the St. James Church, was the home Roman Catholic Parish of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. It’s no longer a part of the archdiocese.
The parish cornerstone was laid May 1, 1833 and consecrated May 1, 1834. It primarily served German immigrants.
The Redemptorists opened a school at the parish and The School Sisters of Notre Dame began staffing the school in 1847.
The parish closed in 1986 and was later sold to a non-Catholic congregation.
The adjacent school became the Institute of Notre Dame.
Others shared photos and video of the fire on social media:
Woke up and looked out of my window to see a church is on fire… pic.twitter.com/jOPL7Fv4IP
— Anthony Ramnauth 🇺🇸🇬🇾🔬🐁 (@PhiloNeurosci) March 28, 2020
— BCFD8x10 (@jobtown8x10) March 28, 2020
Officials said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
“The cause is under investigation, but we are aware there was a thunderstorm moments before this happened,” Adams said.