Historic church fire in Brooklyn, arson suspected - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

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>>

  • Funeral for man who died after NYPD choke hold arrest

    Funeral for man who died after NYPD choke hold arrest

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 10:46 PM EDT2014-07-24 02:46:09 GMT
    An overflow crowd packed a church on Wednesday night for the funeral of a man who died in police custody after an officer placed him in an apparent choke hold. Eric Garner's relatives stopped in front of his open casket, some weeping and wailing. A preacher opened the service at Brooklyn's Bethel Baptist Church with a mix of solemn prayer and an organ-backed gospel medley.
    An overflow crowd packed a church on Wednesday night for the funeral of a man who died in police custody after an officer placed him in an apparent choke hold. Eric Garner's relatives stopped in front of his open casket, some weeping and wailing. A preacher opened the service at Brooklyn's Bethel Baptist Church with a mix of solemn prayer and an organ-backed gospel medley.
  • Bloomberg flies to Israel in show of support

    Bloomberg flies to Israel in show of support

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 4:12 PM EDT2014-07-23 20:12:27 GMT
    Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew to Israel via a commercial El Al flight despite an FAA ban on U.S.-based airlines flying to Tel Aviv. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Bloomberg on the tarmac outside the El Al jet Wednesday at Ben Gurion International Airport.
    Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew to Israel via a commercial El Al flight despite an FAA ban on U.S.-based airlines flying to Tel Aviv. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Bloomberg on the tarmac outside the El Al jet Wednesday at Ben Gurion International Airport.
  • Two babies get herpes during ritual circumcision

    Two babies get herpes during ritual circumcision

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 3:06 PM EDT2014-07-23 19:06:48 GMT
    The New York City Department of Health has issued an alert after two babies were diagnosed with neonatal herpes this month after undergoing a ritual Jewish circumcision called metzitzah b'peh.  In this type of circumcision the mohel sucks blood directly from the infant's cut penis.  The infants need to be hospitalized and treated with intravenous acyclovir.
    The New York City Department of Health has issued an alert after two babies were diagnosed with neonatal herpes this month after undergoing a ritual Jewish circumcision called metzitzah b'peh.  In this type of circumcision the mohel sucks blood directly from the infant's cut penis.  The infants need to be hospitalized and treated with intravenous acyclovir.
Powered by WorldNow

KTTV FOX 11
1999 S. Bundy Dr.
Los Angeles CA 90025

Main: (310) 584-2000
News Tips? (310) 584-2025

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