Fire damages church's roof in Pittsburgh's Allentown section
As they watched Pittsburgh firefighters working Thursday afternoon to extinguish the flames eating away large chunks of the roof on the Hill Top Methodist Church on East Warrington Avenue in Allentown, longtime residents said the fire was damaging more than a house of worship.
“It's sorta the center of the community,” said Pittsburgh City Council President Bruce Kraus, who represents District 3, which includes Allentown. “The senior program is there, several community groups meet there. It's sorta the heartbeat of Allentown. It's significant.”
There were no injuries in the three-alarm fire that the pastor, Susan R. Hutchins, said appears to have been sparked by roofers working with a torch. It took firefighters about 90 minutes to bring the fire, which was reported at 4:16 p.m., under control.
“The church is a valuable resource to the community,” Hutchins said, pointing out that the Allentown Senior Citizen Center, which is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., is located on the ground level of the building.
The Hill Top congregation and another from the Redeemer on the Mount Church also use the facility for Sunday worship and weekly ministerial events.
“The main part of me is grateful nobody was hurt, but part of me is devastated,” said Hutchins, who has been pastor of the church for 17 years. “But God is bigger than a fire.”
“The roofers were working at the back of the church, resealing a flat roof, using a torch, when it caught fire,” said Hutchins. She does not know when the church was built, only that the parish has been located at the site since the late 1800s.
“I live next door and was working in my office on the third floor when I heard something, turned and saw the flames. By the time I got outside, much of the roof was fully engulfed,” Hutchins said.
City arson investigators have not made a ruling on the cause of the fire and have not made an official damage estimate, city Public Safety Department spokeswoman Sonya Toler said.
While some firefighters poured thousands of gallons of water onto the roof, others went inside “to remove some things they thought may be of value to the congregation,” Toler said.
“I mean, this is obviously sad, and this building is used for a lot in the community, but it's also just a building,” said Alex Ielase, pastor of the 50-member Redeemer on the Mount congregation.
“No one was hurt. God closes one door. He can certainly open another one,” Ielase said.
Hutchins was still trying to make arrangements Thursday night for a place to hold services on Sunday.
““We're an old congregation. We're a small congregation, but we are hardy and strong,” Hutchins said. “We'll do whatever needs to be done.”
Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Day 7 of Ferrante trial expected to include testimony from victim’s colleague
- Homewood welcomes nonprofit Animal Rescue League’s new shelter, clinic
- Defense witness testifies on video, absent jurors, of cyanide alternatives
- 3 named to new Pittsburgh land bank group
- Warrant issued for North Side teen in Penn Hills shooting
- North Side residents work on raising $5,000 to replace gardener’s truck
- 32nd District seat in Pa. perceived as pivotal for chamber control
- Movie studio owner building in McKees Rocks is $540K in red
- Ramps reopen from East Ohio and Heinz streets to northbound Route 28
- Newsmaker: Matthew Zupetic
- Pittsburgh forum on bullying urges vigilance