Historic church fire in Brooklyn, arson suspected - KMSP-TV

Fire burns historic church in Brooklyn, arson suspected

Posted: Updated:
Photo from FDNY Facebook page Photo from FDNY Facebook page
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

A 19th-century Brooklyn church that was a hub for Superstorm Sandy volunteer efforts was damaged in a fire early Sunday morning. 

Fire officials said more than 100 firefighters were dispatched to the blaze around 4:00 a.m. at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in the Clinton Hill section. No one was injured.  

The Episcopal Church has played a pivotal role in sandy relief efforts and in the community. Now the clergy and congregation are wondering why someone tried to set it on fire. 

"This is not something you expect, you know?" said Ian Nelizaire, church acolyte. 

The Reverend Michael Sniffen, pastor of the St. Luke and St. Matthews Church, told Fox 5 Sunday morning someone doused the front doors with gasoline, and then set them on fire.

Sandy relief volunteers, who were sleeping in the basement, smelled the smoke and called firefighters. 

"They arrived very quickly and they put the fire out before it spread into the sanctuary itself," said Rev. Sniffen.  

Because firefighters arrived so quickly, the damage was confined mostly to the vestibule.  But the church was temporarily closed while NYPD detectives, including some from the arson squad, worked the scene. 

"I was so sad and very upset, I said who could do such a thing like this?" said Lucille Hill, a church member.  

Hours later, Rev. Sniffen was allowed back into the church to assess its condition. The church has played an important role in the community for years and especially in the Sandy response, says Council Member Letitia James. 

"There are surveillance cameras on both angles on this block and so after the police review those video tapes, I'm sure we will apprehend this sick, demented individual," said James. 

Pastor Sniffen said now the hope is that some good will come of this incident. 

"Fire is also cleansing and I think we're going to come through this stronger than we were," said Rev. Sniffen. 

Church members and other volunteers had collected and wrapped about 500 toys for kids whose Christmas was looking bleak because of Superstorm Sandy. Fox 5 has learned the toys were in the basement and not destroyed by the fire –- so they'll be able to have a Merry Christmas after all and maybe so will the congregation. 

The pastor told Fox 5 he's optimistic they'll be able to have Christmas Day services.

  • Brooklyn NewsBrooklyn NewsMore>>

  • USS Saratoga heads to be scrapped

    USS Saratoga heads to be scrapped

    Thursday, August 21 2014 3:47 PM EDT2014-08-21 19:47:03 GMT
    The decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Saratoga left its port in Rhode Island on Thursday for its final journey to Texas, where it will be scrapped. The ship departed Naval Station Newport and made its way down Narragansett Bay to the Atlantic Ocean. It is heading to the Esco Marine ship recycling plant in Brownsville, Texas.
    The decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Saratoga left its port in Rhode Island on Thursday for its final journey to Texas, where it will be scrapped. The ship departed Naval Station Newport and made its way down Narragansett Bay to the Atlantic Ocean. It is heading to the Esco Marine ship recycling plant in Brownsville, Texas.
  • NYC Council bill to make kids' fast food healthier

    NYC Council bill to make kids' fast food healthier

    Thursday, August 21 2014 12:09 PM EDT2014-08-21 16:09:22 GMT
    Happy Meals might soon need to get healthier.  A New York City councilman is introducing legislation that would set stricter nutritional standards for meals served with toys.
    Happy Meals might soon need to get healthier.  A New York City councilman is introducing legislation that would set stricter nutritional standards for meals served with toys.
  • Palestinian banner unfurled on Manhattan Bridge

    Palestinian banner unfurled on Manhattan Bridge

    Thursday, August 21 2014 8:22 AM EDT2014-08-21 12:22:15 GMT
    Pro-Palestinian activists marching along the Brooklyn Bridge got an eyeful when a giant flag banner in Palestinian colors was unfurled on the nearby Manhattan Bridge. The flag had the words "Boycott, Divest, Sanction" and was lowered from a part of the bridge near the Manhattan side Wednesday evening. Activists on the Brooklyn Bridge met its appearance with cheers.
    Pro-Palestinian activists marching along the Brooklyn Bridge got an eyeful when a giant flag banner in Palestinian colors was unfurled on the nearby Manhattan Bridge. The flag had the words "Boycott, Divest, Sanction" and was lowered from a part of the bridge near the Manhattan side Wednesday evening. Activists on the Brooklyn Bridge met its appearance with cheers.
Powered by WorldNow

KMSP-TV
11358 Viking Drive
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Phone: (952) 944-9999
Fax: (952) 942-0455

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices