Church Fire in Durham

Daniel McLellan Around the Province

I had just gotten back to the house after celebrating the 9:30 a.m. Mass when my cell phone rang. It was Jacek Orzechowski. I could hear the fire alarms going off in the background and Jacek yelling into the phone above the noise that there was a fire in the church.

The fire started in a storage closet in our daily Mass chapel, a smaller worship space adjacent to our main sanctuary. We have no idea how it began.

It occurred between our 9:30 a.m. Mass and our 11:15 a.m. Mass. It was discovered by a group of parishioners who were in the chapel having a meeting. They noticed smoke and tried to put the fire out with the extinguishers while calling 911.

When the fire department arrived – which was pretty quickly – the closet was ablaze and acrid smoke was filling the chapel and the adjacent gathering space (a large area – the former church – that leads into the main church).

There was charring to the inside of the Chapel Hill Street wall and half the windows had to be broken to get at the blaze. The fire department had it beaten down pretty quickly.

There was no major structural damage to the church, though the chapel and gathering space suffered smoke damage.

We had to cancel the remaining three Masses of the day. To keep the curious away, we also closed the campus for the day.

Our maintenance company worked long and hard on the clean-up Sunday and Memorial Day. Eventually, the whole gathering area will need repainting and recarpeting. But for now, while the daily Mass chapel will be closed for repairs, we will celebrate Mass each day in the main church beginning May 31.

We were very lucky.