Church destroyed by fire in Montclair; several firefighters injured

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, August 16, 2023
Church destroyed by fire in Montclair; several firefighters injured
A three-alarm fire burned through Grace Presbyterian Church on Grove Street in Montclair, New Jersey. Lucy Yang has the story.

MONTCLAIR, New Jersey (WABC) -- A fire burned through a church more than a century old in Montclair on Tuesday morning. The flames were so intense, part of the roof collapsed.

The fire broke out just minutes before 8 a.m. Tuesday inside Grace Presbyterian Church on Grove Street. A passerby called 911 to report the building on fire.

The fire began in the basement and quickly spread. In no time it ravaged the sanctuary and burned the roof.

Fortunately, no one was inside at the time. The interim pastor of the church, Robin Curras, said she received a flurry of texts and phone calls.

"We were hoping it was a little thing," Curras said. "It was bad."

Mayor Sean Spiller said that the fire caused extensive damage to the church. A few firefighters suffered minor injuries.

The flames got so intense, firefighters had to be pulled back.

"Church fires are hard because of the age of the wood and the spaces," said Chief John Herrmann with the Montclair Fire Department.

The fire was contained around 11 a.m. The inside of the church was devastated by the flames and the work to get the fire out.

Members of the church showed up heartbroken to see the damage as investigators responded to the scene to begin their search for the cause.

Church leaders say starting Wednesday, they will start to figure out where they go from here.

For 132 years, Grace Presbyterian Church was where many celebrated life's biggest moments.

"I was married here 54 years... still attend the church," said Ray Carnevale.

"My children were baptized there," said Antonio Argibay. "It's painful, very painful."

"This was my family of faith," said Julie Daidone.

The parishioners are far from alone -- several Presbyterian ministers in the area are offering support and whatever other help the congregation needs.

Tuesday evening, members of the heartbroken congregation gathered at the Presbyterian Church of Upper Montclair.

"People are already saying we can worship here or there, coming up with solutions," Curras said. "We'll figure it out."

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