Firefighters and emergency responders from multiple precincts responded to a massive blaze at a church in Burlington County, New Jersey, that started on Monday evening and burned into Tuesday morning.
Authorities said the fire broke out at the Fountain of Life Center on Burlington Columbus Road in Florence, just after 6 p.m. More than 150 firefighters from throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania responded to the scene in an attempt to control the swiftly spreading fire, according to FOX 29 Philadelphia.
Within hours the roof of the structure collapsed and smoke rising into the night sky could be seen for miles, officials said.
No one was harmed in the blaze, which was initially reported as a three-alarm fire before it grew to a five-alarm and finally an eight-alarm fire.
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Russ Hodgins, the lead pastor, applauded the first responders for doing “everything they can” to attempt to save the building.
“Even though this building could not be saved, they’ve done everything they can to save our school building, which is attached through a link to the church,” he told WPVI.
Pastor Matthew Boudwin called the loss of the church “incredibly tragic.”
“This is my entire life and the community here really means everything to me,” he said, according to WPVI.
Church officials said Sunday services will be held in a recreation area that was not damaged by the fire. A neighboring K-12 school was not damaged, per the station.
According to a nearby resident, the church was established around 1979 and has been a pillar of the community in holding Easter events each year.
“They do a wonderful Easter show every year, every single year. People come from all over. It’s a wonderful congregation, it’s part of the community, and it’s going to be missed,” Colleen Reichert told FOX 29.
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The church property also had a basketball court that was used by the surrounding community.
Everyone was evacuated from the facility and the court as the fire spread.
Officials are continuing to battle the blaze into the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Its cause is still under investigation.
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