Boston firefighters battled a fast moving 5-alarm fire in South Boston this morning that destroyed the Albanian Orthodox Church of Saint John the Baptist at 410 West Broadway.
Acting Chief of Department John Hasson stated that the call came in around 9:13 a.m., reporting a grass fire in the rear of the church. However, when firefighters arrived on the scene, they encountered heavy fire and smoke from the church.
Firefighters forced their way into the church and found the altar area heavily engulfed with fire rapidly spreading to the walls and ceiling.
While firefighters were attempting to extinguish the flames from inside, the ceiling began to collapse forcing an evacuation and defensive firefighting operations to commence from the outside.
Chief Hasson stated eight firefighters sustained injuries battling the blaze which caused the church to be declared a total loss and damages estimated at $1 million.
The church was built in 1824 as Saint Matthew's Roman Catholic Church but the Albanian Orthodox Church bought the building in the early 1930s
The Very Reverend Arthur Lidlin, Chancellor of the Albanian Orthodox archdiocese stated that there were no candles lit on the alter but the electrical and gas service to the church are located under the alter where the fire is believed to have started.
Lidlin said the altar is hand carved wood and gold plated icons.
Residents of 322-324 Athens Street which is adjacent to the church remained evacuated as on early evening due to the fear of the rear wall collapsing although they were allowed into their apartments to retrieve personal belongings.
Boston Deputy Fire Chief Robert Calobrisi stated the cause of the fire is unknown and currently under investigation.
There were no civilian injuries and the Red Cross are assisting residents that were evacuated until they can return to their homes.