An inferno consumed an historic Englewood, New Jersey church Tuesday night, turning the steeple into a torch and blowing through the roof.
Dozens of firefighters from several area departments joined their Englewood colleagues at the 19th Century church on East Palisade Avenue after the multi-alarm blaze broke out shortly before 8 p.m. -- filling neighborhoods with smoke driven by northwest winds.
Those inside were quickly pulled out in favor of an aerial attack, as flames tore through the church and collapsed its pitched roof. No injuries were immediately reported.
Along with the devastation of the church came the destruction of its Möller pipe organ -- Bergen County's largest -- which was restored and expanded five years ago.
Aid came from, among other towns, Bergenfield, Bogota Englewood Cliffs, Hackensack, Leonia, Ridgefield Park, Teaneck and Tenafly. Officials said there was no immediate word on a possible cause; investigators would make that determination, they said.
Located a few blocks east of the downtown shopping district, the Victorian Gothic landmark was built in 1870, a decade after First Presbyterian, indeed, became the first of its kind in Bergen County. Congregants come from more than 30 towns.
Morning services had been scheduled for this Easter Sunday.
The Rev. Richard Hong, the church pastor, said school was cancelled for the week and arrangements would be made for holiday services and classes. He said he'd already received several offers from other churches.
"I just want to express my gratitude to the firefighters, as I see them put a tremendous effort into doing what they can. I just want everyone to be safe," he said, while thanking other churches who immediately offered help.
As word spread Tuesday night, messages of support flowed from throughout the country -- as well as from in town.
"To our dear friends at First Presbyterian, please know that I and the whole St Paul's Church in Englewood Parish Family holds you in prayer," the Rev. Dr. William H. Allport II wrote. "What ever ways we are able to support you in the immediate and on-going days of recovery, we are here with you.
"In these days of Holy Week, the Tridiuum, and Easter, know that you are welcome, always!"
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