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Massive NYC fire destroys 19th-century church

"We are devastated and crushed that our beloved physical sanctuary at Middle Collegiate Church has burned," said Rev. Jacqui Lewis.

A massive fire broke out Saturday morning in a vacant building in New York City and spread to a 19th-century church, leaving both structures uninhabitable.

The fire started around 5 a.m. at a building on East 7th Street in the East Village neighborhood, according to NBC New York.

The blaze ultimately resulted in six alarms. The New York City Fire Department said four firefighters suffered minor injuries.

"Our units arrived in three minutes, very fast response time. Upon arrival, we had heavy fire showing from the corner building on East 7th Street. We quickly transmitted additional alarms to get more help here," the fire department said in a statement.

Firefighters work to extinguish the fire in the building next to the Middle Collegiate Church on Dec. 5, 2020 in New York.Yuki Iwamura / AP

"Fire had extended into the church on 2nd Avenue and also into another building on 7th Street. We had all of our units in position and we were quickly able to contain it to that area."

Photos from the fire showed large flames shooting from the top of a building and heavy smoke in the air. The cause of the blaze is under investigation by fire marshals.

The Middle Collegiate Church, which was organized in 1628, was destroyed in the fire.

"We are devastated and crushed that our beloved physical sanctuary at Middle Collegiate Church has burned," Rev. Jacqui Lewis said in a statement. "And yet no fire can stop Revolutionary Love. We thank God that there has been no loss of life. We know that God does not cause these kinds of tragedies but is present with us and to us as we grieve, present in the hugs and prayers of loved ones."

Church fire
Firefighters battle a blaze at the Middle Collegiate Church on East 7th St. in New York City early on Dec. 5, 2020.FDNY

Lewis said that the church had moved to online worship because of the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to do so.

"We pray for the first responders. We pray for our neighbors who are also affected by this fire. And we covet your prayers as we grieve," she said.

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According to the church's website, it is the oldest congregation of the Collegiate Churches of New York and its history has been linked to many key events in American history.

"Our bell tower is the home to New York’s Liberty Bell, which rang in the birth of our country on July 9, 1776. It has rung for the inauguration and death of every American President. It also rings during momentous New York City events, including remembering the attacks on 9/11," the church said.