A devastating eight-alarm fire has destroyed a massive church in southern New Jersey, despite the efforts of more than 150 firefighters who tried to extinguish the flames overnight.
The blaze broke out on Monday evening at the Fountain of Life Center in Florence Township, which drew a response from at least 100 emergency teams from five counties, CBS Philadelphia reported. The fire eventually caused the roof of the church to collapse entirely while threatening a nearby K-12 school on Monday night.
Firefighters had successfully controlled the blaze by Tuesday morning, although what remained of the church building continued to smolder as crews worked to address some areas still actively burning, according to CBS Philadelphia. The station’s news chopper flew overhead as the fire raged and captured startling footage that showed massive clouds of smoke billowing out from multiple sides of the church structure.
No injuries have been reported in connection with the fire, according to CBS Philadelphia, and authorities have opened an investigation to determine what may have caused it. Russell Hodgins, a senior pastor at the Fountain of Life Center, told the station that he saw the roof of the church cave in during the blaze and called the destruction of the building “a devastating loss.”
“The sanctuary’s just been completely burned,” Hodgins told CBS Philadelphia. “The roof collapsing is a pretty embedded image in my mind.”
As flames engulfed the front of the church, Hodgins said that a dome and a cross previously displayed on the roof of the Fountain of Life Center collapsed into the sanctuary.
“When we saw that drop into the sanctuary … that was a pretty devastating image,” the pastor said.
Robert Tharp, the administrator of the Florence Township Fire District, said that the fire was particularly difficult for crews to manage because the building was so large, according to CBS Philadelphia.
“Firefighters did a tremendous job of trying to stop the fire interiorly, it was just the size of the building the amount of fire that was here we had to switch our operation to a defensive operation,” Tharp said.
CBS News contacted the Florence Township Fire Department for more information but did not receive an immediate response.
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