4-alarm fire tears through East Oak Lane church

EAST OAK LANE - August 25, 2013

Flames ripped through the roof of Saint Mary the Protectress Ukrainian Orthodox Church located at North 12th Street and Oak Lane.

It began around 1:00 Sunday afternoon. Church members had just left the building 10 minutes before the fire started.

"Suddenly we smell smoke," said Peter Kluk, Church Vice President.

Kluk says moments later there were flames.

Engine 63 is just two doors down and firefighters responded within two minutes, hiking a water line down the street.

The fire was so intense after the 1st alarm that crews inside had to back out of the structure 38 minutes into the battling blaze.

A 4th alarm was struck shortly before 2:30 p.m.

Crews began to focus on the flames that appeared to start somewhere up high.

"There was a larger tower that fell early. It fell into the church roof, it caused a collapse in there. If we had people inside, it would have been a bad situation," said Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.

The fire was brought under control after 3:00 p.m. and despite the damage, there were no injuries reported.

"Nobody was inside. God bless, God bless," said Orisya Khanas.

Oksana came to the United States from Ukraine. She got married and baptized her children at the church.

"It's so sad to see everything turn into ashes like this," said Oksana.

Her family watched with church officials who expressed concern about the loss of the decades of archives inside.

"The articles in the church are absolutely historic to the church," said Metropolitan Antony.

Including irreplaceable holy items, and memories that have been there since the congregation came in the 1970s.

"We just never think of putting a price on them until something happened," said Metropolitan Antony.

"I'll never forget how special it is inside and the feeling inside every time you leave this church, it's never going to be the same again," said Oskana.

Church officials are slated to come back Monday morning to assess the damage. For now, members are welcomed to attend St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Church at 5th and Independence streets.

As for the cause of the blaze, it remains under investigation.

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