Fire Erupts at West Philadelphia Church, Shooting Flames Through Steeple

A massive church in West Philadelphia, which housed a daycare center, went up in flames

What to Know

  • Firefighters battled a massive, two-alarm fire at a West Philadelphia church Tuesday afternoon.
  • The fire started at the Greater Bible Way Temple on North 52nd and Warren streets around 3 p.m.
  • Officials said no one was trapped in the church though one person in an adjacent property had to be hospitalized.

Smoke and flames roared from the steeple atop a West Philadelphia church Tuesday afternoon as firefighters battled a massive, two-alarm blaze.

The fire started at the Greater Bible Way Temple on North 52nd and Warren streets around 3 p.m.

The church is also home to a children's day care center at the corner of North 52nd and Warren. The religious complex takes up a large triangular property enclosed by North 52nd Street, Lancaster Avenue and Bible Way.

At least 75 firefighters as well as police officers and members of the Salvation Army, SEPTA and the Red Paw Emergency Relief Team responded to the fire.

The fire was placed under control around 6 p.m. Crews remained on the scene to put out hot spots and monitor the structure in case of any collapse.

"We'll be here all night," Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said.

No one was trapped or needed to be rescued during the fire, according to investigators. Commissioner Thiel said one person who they believe was in an adjacent property was taken to the hospital. They have not yet revealed that person's condition.

The church's website describes Greater Bible Way Temple as a "60-year ministry located in the heart of West Philadelphia."

The pastor, Bishop Benjamin Peterson, was at the church at the time of the fire and called the situation "heartbreaking."

"Many of us that are standing here, our parents and our grandparents, gave their blood, sweat and tears, money to this ministry that we might come here," Bishop Peterson said. "We came here 36 years ago, purchasing the complex from the archdiocese."

The church, which also serves as a shelter and neighborhood outreach center, is described as an "anchor in the community."

"We're going to stay together," Bishop Peterson said. "And we're going to do all that we can do as a congregation to bind our forces together and we'll come out of this."

Bishop Peterson said the church had planned on celebrating its 61st anniversary this week.

"We are asking God to provide, as he always has, us with a place to worship," he said. "We will be in need of funds to help us along this journey and I declare in the name of Jesus the Christ, things just got better."

Bishop Peterson said the fire was caused by repair work on the roof. NBC10 also obtained video showing a man on the roof hosing off a section of the church moments before the fire. A device that appears to be a propane tank is also attached to a rope on the roof. Another video shows the man coming down a ladder and the propane tank already on the ground just as the fire began.

Officials, however, have not confirmed whether or not the fire was sparked by repair work and they have not yet released an official cause.

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