Fire heavily damages church in Sheraden
Dozens of firefighters worked for more than two hours Monday to extinguish a fire that destroyed the roof of a church in Pittsburgh’s Sheraden neighborhood.
“It just basically burnt the roof off the building,” Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones said.
One firefighter was injured while battling the four-alarm fire at Sheraden United Methodist Church on Chartiers Avenue near Citadel Street, Jones said. Medics took the injured firefighter to UPMC Mercy hospital for minor injuries.
No one was inside the church when the fire broke out shortly after 2:30 p.m., according to Jones.
‘You mourn the loss’
Church leaders and members who heard about the fire rushed to be there.
They consoled one another with hugs and prayers as they watched their longtime place of worship burn.
The Rev. Wayne Meyer, who recently retired as the church’s pastor, watched as firefighters repositioned ladders and sprayed hoses at the flames engulfing the church’s upper half.
“It’s very difficult at this point,” Meyer said. “Your emotions are going in all different directions. You know, the history that you have there, all the things that have occurred there, the ministries, the work that operated out of that church for this community, and you mourn the loss of all of that. …
“But in the same token, it is a building,” he said. “It’s stuff. And it can be repaired or replaced. We’re grateful that nobody was injured seriously, and everyone so far associated is going to be all right, and that’s the most important thing.”
The church congregation of about 100 members likely will be able to share worship space with their partner church in McKees Rocks.
The fire chief described the damage as severe, but he also said he wouldn’t rush to deem the structure a “total loss.”
“I’ve seen some restoration companies do some good work and make it look brand new, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see,” Jones said.
The interior of the sanctuary of Sheridan United Methodist Church after a fire heavily damaged it. pic.twitter.com/0qmrgzppP6
— Tom Davidson (@TribDavidson) September 10, 2019
Fire station next door was already busy
Allegheny County 911 dispatchers received a report of heavy smoke coming from the church at 2:37 p.m.
“We have a fire station right next door, unfortunately, they were out on another call at the time,” Jones said.
Not having firefighters from the closest station available probably delayed the response time by about two minutes, Jones said.
Officials got to the church at 2:41 p.m.
By 3:15 p.m., the fire’s intensity was upgraded to four alarms.
— Pgh Public Safety (@PghPublicSafety) September 9, 2019
The construction of the older church building and its tiny crawl spaces made for a difficult fight, the chief said.
“Whenever you have a cathedral ceiling like that, and the fire gets up there in the ceiling area, the roof area, it’s very difficult to get to,” Jones said.
At one point, the firefighters were ordered to back away from the building, as officials feared portions of it might collapse.
“With the fire raging in there, there was no need for us to put any people in that position,” Jones said. “No one was at risk at the time. The building can be replaced, and I didn’t want to get anybody hurt so we went (into) defensive mode.”
Officials got the fire under control by about 5 p.m., Public Safety officials said.
Officials temporarily closed Chartiers Avenue from Allendale to Hillsboro streets during the incident and cleanup.
The 4-alarm fire at the Sheriden United Methodist Church has been placed under control. 60 firefighters have been working for over 2 hours to contain the fire and save the church. This is still an active emergency scene and fire crews will be remaining on scene.
— Pittsburgh Fire Fighters (@PghFireFighters) September 9, 2019
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Trib Total Media staff photographer Kristina Serafini contributed.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter .