Notre Dame fire triggers painful memories for Conshohocken firefighter

CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. (WPVI) -- Joe Pilcicki, a member of the Conshohocken Fire Department, was watching the images of Notre Dame burning Monday evening, triggering painful memories.

May 10, 2005, he was with firefighters battling a fast moving blaze that eventually destroyed most of the First Baptist Church in Conshohocken. The longtime firefighter told Action News, "It was a flashback to see flames coming out the top, so hopeless."

The cause of the 2005 fire was an accident. A torch used by a roofing crew started the blaze which burned the 130-year-old wooden roof of the church.

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On the day of the fire, Pilcicki peered down from a tall ladder at the still smoking house of worship and thought the church could not be saved.

"Absolutely not, everything had collapsed on the inside there was nothing but ruble," said Pilcicki.

The congregation however has rebuilt a new structure which retained a gothic bell tower, one of the few parts of the church which was not destroyed.

The rebuilding was financed with insurance funds and there was a former member who left money in her will.

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It started five minutes after closing time. Shortly thereafter, thick smoke and flames were leaping off Notre Dame Cathedral into the Paris sky and it was all captured in real-time on social media.

The church's pastor, Bradley Lacey, told Action News, "The check came in, it was about $200,000 and it was to a dime what we still needed, so at every turn God provided for us."

Volunteers have finished the church's fellowship hall where Sunday services are now held. The area that is to become the church's sanctuary still requires interior work.

Both Lacey and Pilcicki said they feel certain Notre Dame will be restored. They both said they appreciate the shock and pain the people of France are feeling in the wake of yesterday's devastating fire.
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