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Firefighters tackle burning church in McKeesport

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 2:05 p.m.
Patrick Cloonan | Daily News
Firefighters from McKeesport and neighboring communities respond to a Thursday afternoon blaze at the God's Re-Creation Christian Center at 1028 Fawcett Avenue.
Patrick Cloonan | Daily News
McKeesport firefighters Rob Patterson, left, and Bruce Drye Jr. carry hoses away from the scene after extinguishing a blaze at God's Re-Creation Christian Center on Thursday afternoon.
Patrick Cloonan | Daily News
The Rev. Priscilla Dixon of God's Re-Creation Christian Center speaks with the media after a Thursday afternoon fire at her McKeesport church.

No injuries were reported in a noontime fire on Thursday that extensively damaged the sanctuary of a small church in McKeesport's Fawcett Plan section.

“The greatest thing is to give God praise because no one was injured,” said the Rev. Priscilla Dixon, pastor of God's Re-Creation Christian Center at 1028 Fawcett Ave.

“There is a lot of damage,” fire Chief Kevin Lust said outside the church built for another congregation nearly 60 years ago. “The windows had to be taken out for ventilation.”

Dixon said no one had been in the church since Sunday services.

“It was devastating,” Dixon said.

“Police came and answered a possible burglar alarm,” Lust said. “They said the building was secure but it looked like smoke was inside. They felt the windows and they were hot.”

The fire chief said it was extinguished in 15 to 20 minutes.

“If it hadn't been for the alarm system, it might have been worse,” Dixon said.

Allegheny County fire marshals are investigating but Lust said he did not believe the fire was suspicious.

“We won't know until they do their investigation,” Dixon said.

Dixon's congregation of more than 200 members recently paid off a $50,000 mortgage on the building. It was built in the 1950s to house the First Church of Christ Scientist, then sold to God's Re-Creation Christian Center in 2011.

“God brought us here,” Dixon said. “That same God, that same Jesus ... will open up the way.”

McKeesport firefighters were assisted by Glassport's rapid intervention team, White Oak volunteers and a unit from the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in West Mifflin.

“We are a people of strong faith,” Dixon said. “We're overcomers. We've overcome a lot. We will overcome this, too.”

A fire department chaplain from Elizabeth Township responded as well, along with a service unit from The Salvation Army.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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