City places deadline on leaders of West Philadelphia church damaged in massive fire

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections is awaiting crucial engineering plans from leaders of a historic West Philadelphia church that was badly damaged in a massive fire Tuesday.

The roof of the 115-year-old Greater Bible Way Temple is nearly all gone after catching fire in the Parkside section.
EMBED More News Videos

L & I today declared the fire ravaged Greater Bible Way Temple imminently dangerous as reported by Dann Cuellar during Action News at11 on August 28, 2019.

"The safety issue is that a great deal of debris and roofing material, including heavy slate tiles, are not anchored down and could cause injury to members of the public, especially in case of storms or high winds," department spokesperson Karen Guss said.

Guss said church leaders will need to bring in an engineer to present a plan on how the building will be secured.

"The Department will need to see progress on this in the next few days. If there is no progress and/or if it conditions deteriorate unacceptably, L&I will take action to protect public safety.

This could include partial demolition of the roof," Guss said.

Church members had a busy morning Friday while trying to clean out the building next door and sift through years of memories.

Crews finished installing metal fencing around the building to block off the sidewalk in the area.

Fire investigators have not yet said what ignited the blaze that ripped through the 115-year-old church building.
EMBED More News Videos

Massive inferno engulfs Philadelphia church. John Rawlins has more on Action News at 5 p.m. on August 27, 2019.

Bishop Benjamin Peterson, the senior pastor, said he was too overwhelmed to speak Friday but confirmed shortly after the fire that 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.

The congregation is confident they'll be able to rebuild.

"We're going to hold hands, watch the traffic and we're going to stay together and fulfill our mission that we believe God wanted us to fulfill and change the lives of men and women in this city," Peterson said.

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 © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.