Historic Sheepshead Bay church gutted by early morning blaze
An early morning fire on Thursday destroyed a historic Sheepshead Bay church — the second time in 11 years that the building has gone up in flames, fire officials said.
First responders said that although the massive blaze went to three alarms almost immediately — the building was almost fully engulfed upon their arrival — no injuries were reported.
Investigators from the FDNY, fire marshals, NYPD Arson and Explosive Squad and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were on scene looking for clues as to how the fire started.
Officials were scouring neighboring homes’ security cameras for clues this morning.
Firefighters rushed to the scene at 12:29 a.m. and found heavy fire in the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, a two-story building at 2649 E. 23rd St., an FDNY spokesman said.
Officials said 140 firefighters and 33 trucks responded to the three-alarm fire before it was brought under control around 2:17 a.m.
Members of the congregation were mostly in shock over the destruction to the church, founded in 1895.
Lorraine Howard, 65, a resident of Queens, said she has been coming to the church for more than 30 years, and it was difficult for her to see the church destroyed, just before the holidays.
“My kids were confirmed here, my grandchildren were baptized here, my brother was the organist — it’s been a big part of my life and now it’s gone,” Howard said. “We were just here last weekend with my two granddaughters, cleaning and getting it ready for the holidays.
“It has so many memories and now it’s gone. Where will we go to church now?”
Joseph Hill, a resident of the block, remembered when a fire hit the same building 11 years prior.
“They had three congregations in there and the priest was very nice — such a shame,” he said. “I’m Jewish, but this is just terrible for everybody.”
In 2007, the Parish Hall was destroyed by a similar fire. The building was nearly fully repaired before this fire.