CHICAGO, Ill. (WBBM) — A fire that destroyed a beloved historic church in Englewood reignited overnight.
Bystanders Saturday morning thought to have seen smoke coming from the church, but fire officials confirmed that it was steam from the extinguished fire.
The extra-alarm fire destroyed the historic Antioch Missionary Baptist Church on Good Friday afternoon.
The fire broke out around 2:30 p.m. Fire Department called a 2-11 alarm, and later a 3-11 alarm, for extra equipment and manpower at the church at 6248 S. Stewart Ave., at the intersection with Englewood Avenue.
By 2:48 p.m., the Fire Department reported the roof caved in.
CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reported the fire was easily able to accelerate in high spaces that are not readily accessible to hose lines. Between that and the heavy timber construction of the roof, the fire was easily able to grow out of control.
Firefighters trained hose lines from tower ladder trucks. They went for a defensive operation from the outside, with no firefighters fighting the blaze from inside the building.
The fire completely burned away the roof structure, leaving a lot of heavy timber crashing to the floor of the church. Pews were also likely on fire inside the structure.
Habermehl said firefighters would be battling the blaze well into the evening.
No injuries were reported.
CBS 2’s Jackie Kostek reported dark clouds of smoke from the fire were visible from the Dan Ryan Expressway Friday afternoon.
A Good Friday service had been held at the church at noon, about two and a half hours before the fire.
CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported people were standing near the burning church in shock Friday afternoon. Some had only been out of the Good Friday service at the church for a few hours.
One woman standing and watching had been going to the church since she was 10 years old.
The woman said she had not spoken to the pastor, but she said he had delivered a beautiful sermon for Good Friday.
Pastor Gerald Dew has been watching over the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church for more than 20 years.
“We’re not leaving the community,” Dew said. “All this does for us is to redouble our efforts to be intentional about our involvement and commitment to this community.”
Dew said the Good Friday service started at noon, and everyone was out around 2 p.m. He got the news a little later that the church was on fire.
When he got the call, he saw the smoke billowing all the way from 95th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway. He rushed up to the church – only to see the fire get worse.
But he emphasized what is important is the congregation is OK.
“The church is not a building. The church is the people – and there were no injuries; no loss of life. So the church is still alive. The church is still open. I just know we will have Easter service,” Rev. Dew said. “We will celebrate. We will rejoice. We will praise the Lord.
By 4:30 p.m., the fire was contained, but firefighters were still chasing hot spots.
The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1925 by the Rev. E.H. Branch. The church congregation originally worshipped in Bronzeville and later Washington Park.
Under the Rev. Dr. Wilbur Nathan Daniel, Antioch Missionary Baptist moved into its Englewood home in 1958. The church bought the structure for $200,000, with another $75,000 needed for remodeling before moving in.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams noted that Rev. Daniel was very involved in civic affairs and was friends with mayors and other city leaders.