Philadelphia church deemed 'imminently dangerous' after massive blaze

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Licenses and Inspections declared the fire-ravaged Greater Bible Way Temple imminently dangerous after a massive blaze on Tuesday in Philadelphia's Parkside section.

The city agency's concern is not with the church's massive stone walls, but with the potential of roof slates and other debris in the fire-damaged roof structure that could become dislodged in storms or strong winds.

L & I has told the leaders of the church they must erect a fence around the fire scene and hire an engineer to develop a plan to remove or secure the damaged roof.

RELATED: Close-up of damages caused by massive West Philadelphia church fire

Fire investigators have not said what ignited the blaze that ripped through the 115-year-old church building.

EMBED More News Videos

Drone 6 over the damage caused by a massive fire at a 115 year old church in the city's Parkside section, August 28, 2019

Bishop Benjamin Peterson, the senior pastor, confirmed there was work being done on the roof prior to the blaze. He said it was also his understanding a worker was using a gas-fueled torch.

Heartbroken members of the church gathered outside the building in prayer for the future of their church.

"I'm broken, but I'm not destroyed," said Peterson. "Only thing I could say is Christ is the answer and perhaps he wanted us to do more."

Firefighters worked feverishly to save the church that was built in 1904.

"We understand it's a historic structure so you could see, we're doing our absolute best to save as much of it as we can. It's a very high risk and dangerous situation," said Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel.

As for those in the shelter displaced by the fire, some packed their belongings in trash bags. We asked one person where he was going to be able to stay? His answer? On the street.

Peterson says he plans to rebuild and had a team go in to assess what needs to be done in the next day or so.

The congregation expects to hold church services this Sunday at 11 a.m. in a square across from the church. They are also are establishing a cash app and planning a fundraiser for Sept. 23 to raise money hoping to rebuild.
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.