CHICAGO -- A fire burned for more than two hours Wednesday morning at Holy Name Cathedral, severely damaging the attic and leaving gaping holes in the roof of the 134-year-old landmark and seat of Cardinal Francis George.
Firefighters battled the blaze in frigid temperatures at the iconic church, which had been destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire and rebuilt. No injuries from the fire were immediately reported.
"First we have to thank God no one was injured," George said after surveying the damage inside the church. "Chicago has always bounced back from fires."
Chicago firefighters work in freezing temperatures on an extra-alarm fire at the Holy Name Cathedral, a 134-year-old Chicago landmark and the seat of Cardinal Francis George, in Chicago, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Firefighters battle a fire in the cock loft at Holy Name Cathedral on State Street Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009, in Chicago. Flames were shooting through the church's roof for about an hour before they replaced by plumes of white smoke as firefighters doused it with water. There were no injuries. (AP Photo/The Chicago Tribune, Michael Tercha)
Flames shot through Holy Name's blackened roof for about an hour before being replaced by plumes of white smoke. The fire was out around 8 a.m.
Afterward, icicles hung from pews and water dripped from light fixtures, George said.
Chicago Fire Department Spokesman Larry Langford said there was no smoke or fire damage in the sanctuary. An investigation into the cause was ongoing.
Holy Name's pastor, the Rev. Daniel Mayall, said the fire set off the sprinkler system, which kept the flames from the cathedral's extensive wood paneling and ornate decorations.
But the water damage to the building's interior was "humongous" and crews were pumping water out of the basement, said Chicago Archdiocese Chancellor Jimmy Lago.
Church officials said it was too early to estimate the full extent of the damage, but Lago said he expected the cathedral to be closed for months. He said his heart goes out to Holy Name's parishioners, several of whom came to the scene Wednesday.
Lourdes Mayback, 54, has helped distribute communion and has served as an usher during her 25 years as a Holy Name parishioner. On Wednesday morning, she stood on the street corner across from the cathedral and cried.
"My heart is breaking in pieces," she said, wiping tears. "This is my life here, my home."
A member of a crew that was working on repairs to the church discovered the fire, which appeared to have been burning for awhile, said Chicago Fire Commissioner John W. Brooks.
Restoration and repair work on the building had been ongoing after engineers determined structural weaknesses in the roof caused a 10-pound piece of decorative wood to fall 70 feet from the ceiling last February. No one was injured in the incident.
"We have gone through a lot in the last year and it's a shame to see that we're back to square one again," Mayall said.
Parishioner Kathy Sorvillo, 60, lives just a block away and came to see the damage after hearing about the fire on the news.
"To rebuild something so beautiful is going to be hard," she said bundled up against the cold. "I'm really sad, I don't know what we'll do now."
Lago said sacramental records of marriages and baptisms were kept in a fire proof vault and were believed to be safe.
Parishioners and visitors to the church are familiar with iconic red hats hanging from the ceiling. The tasseled hats, called galleros, are given to cardinals of the diocese and then hung from the ceiling after each one dies. George said they were undamaged by the fire.
The church and its nearby buildings, including a school and rectory, take up an entire block in downtown Chicago block. The fire hadn't damaged those buildings.
The original Holy Name was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the parish rebuilt, opening the new cathedral in 1875.
The fire comes amid a $10 million "Restore & Renew" fundraising campaign to renovate and update the cathedral and other structures on its campus. The last major renovation took place in 1968.
According to the church's Web site, a 2006 engineering study found "several critical items" in need of updates, including fire protection in the rectory and replacement of the roof membrane. The church had already replaced its floors and refinished pews.
The church, built in the Gothic revival style, can seat 1,520 people and has a 70-foot vaulted ceiling. Its spire reaches 210 feet.
While no injuries were reported from the fire, Langford said a firefighter suffered a minor back sprain after slipping and falling.
On the Net: http://holynamecathedral.org/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed
Excellent stop for the guys in Chicago, those church jobs could be nightmares if they dont get an early jump on the seat of the fire and it can spread in a hundred different directions.
Must have been a tough fight, hope they had proper rehab and enough manpower to rotate in the frigid weather.
You want to know what really bugs me? The fact that these guys stop a fire from becoming a conflagration and the only thing you can talk about as a group is the one guy in the one picture without his helmet.
How many of you have worked in a tower bucket before with a master stream in the winter? Anyone? I have, and the one thing that coats you even thicker than the ground ops is ice. Everyone notice the guy in question looking down, holding something? Probably willing to bet that its his helmet, and he is breaking the ice away from the brim so he can see better.
Now, can we all please move forward past the helmet and stop trying to be the hero by spotting something unsafe in all of the pictures that are shared on this web site?
The boys from north of I-80 did a bang-up job, read the articles, no place to be scared of heights, and I ain’t talking about the bucket, that would have been the easy place to be. Now if you got the ba**s take a 2 ½ up 70ft in the cock loft, no safety harness, sit on wood planks on scaffolding and put it out, did I mention they had to take off their packs to get through the scuttle hole. Alls I can say is WOW nice job, to bad the church has been a dump for some time, but hey it’s still a landmark, and a dam good save.
I came off a bit rude didnt I ? Didnt mean to sound that way, just making a funny point that everyone notices these things but than never truly looks at the picture to actually see what might actually be happening.
The brothers made an excellent stop, this church could have been reduced to basement, but they saved it and the only thing we can discuss is the missing helmet!! LOL And yes, I have been shivering my britches off in a bucket before too...NOT fun!! Had the party hat streamer type icicles hanging from the brim of the helmet (Among other places)
Here's to a cold beer and spring temps.....
Trying to dig some older pics from this apartment fire from a few years back to show
you some "Party Streamers" I can remember leaning acrossed the exchaust of the wagon
just to get the buckles on my turnout coat undone.
Sure could use some sun burn right about know.