Historic church total loss after fire

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A Rochester treasure is a blackened wreckage Saturday night after a devastating fire.

Responders couldn’t save the historic Seventh-day Adventist Church on Jefferson Avenue. News10NBC was told no one was inside of the church when the fire erupted. Rochester Fire Department says this was a four-alarm fire and 20 fire companies across the city came out to help.

"Happening on Christmas Day…it’s so sad, it’s sad. The flames looked like it’s ruined, it’s ruined, it’s ruined,” said Shawna Nettles who saw the first signs of smoke.

Massive flames ripped through the historic walls of the church. Long-time members of the congregation say they’re devastated.

"That’s a hallmark, that’s a big part of this area. I was two, three, five years old – that’s where I spent all my time as a kid,” Douglas Swales told News10NBC.

As the pastor for the church, Hanson Drysdale watched as fire crews worked to put out the flames. Drysdale says the church held services Saturday morning and what happens is in God’s hands.

"It is unimaginable what is happening. We are all hurting, but we serve a God who knows all things, nothing takes God by surprise, he knew about this day, he knew this would happen,” Drysdale said.

The Rochester Fire Department says flames started around 6 p.m. The roof of the church completely caved in, making putting the fire out difficult.

"Church fires are one of the most dangerous to fight especially internally,” Chief Felipe Hernandez explained.

With parts of the roof collapsing, fire crews had to try and put out flames only from the outside. The flames and smoke were so intense that at one point there were concerns about water supply.

“Those hoses from the ground flow about 500 gallons per minute. The ones you see in the air can flow 1000 gallons per minute. We did have to call the water department to assist,” Hernandez added.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.