ENGLEWOOD — Three days after a massive fire destroyed the roof of an Englewood church, firefighters are still working to calm the blaze.
Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, 6248 S. Stewart Ave., caught fire Friday afternoon, hours after a Good Friday Service. The fire destroyed the roof of the century-old building, leaving a single pillar and shattered windows.
Though the fire was initially extinguished around 4 p.m. Friday, crews have reported to the South Side church at least three times since then as the fire rekindled, Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.
On Monday afternoon, fire officials were back at the church tackling the fire as smoke filled the air.
“This is very heavy construction, and when the roof caved in, it trapped a lot of the burning material where we couldn’t get water to it,” Langford said. “As it burns slowly through what was remaining, it got air and got into more open areas. Now, it’s a full-fledged fire again.”
Due to the density of the roof’s material, crews have been able to “knock the flame down,” but not extinguish it.
Firefighters can’t go into the church because it’s dangerous, Langford said. The only solution is to use the “surround and drown” method, he said.
“Timbers are falling, and things are reigniting. The fire is difficult to get to,” Langford said. “There’s been some fire deep in the building. After it dries out, it starts spreading again. We have to get more equipment so we can shoot it down from above.”
Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Donald Walker said more than 184 firefighters with more than 50 pieces of equipment responded to battle heavy flames in the roof Friday.
On Saturday, the Office of Fire Investigations determined a roofer’s propane torch accidentally touched off the blaze.
On Sunday, congregants gathered at a nearby funeral home for an Easter service. Pastor Gerald M. Dew focused on resurrection, but acknowledged what’s next for the church is unclear. He asked for donations to help with the next steps, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Antioch Missionary grew out of Salem Baptist Church in 1922 and got its start in Bronzeville in February 1925, according to the church website. It moved several times over the next three decades before buying the church building at Englewood and Stewart avenues from Foster Park Baptist Church in 1958, according to the website.
By the late 1990s, Antioch had about 4,500 parishioners, according to the church’s website.
Dew took over as pastor in 2001. The church then launched a $450,000 renovation, including overhauls to the sanctuary, kitchen, banquet hall, chapel, restrooms, offices and meeting rooms, according to the website. The church also upgraded its sound system and technology.
Dew could not be reached for comment Monday.
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