Historic church fire in Brooklyn, arson suspected - Fox 2 News Headlines

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>>

  • White flags raised at Brooklyn Bridge

    White flags raised at Brooklyn Bridge

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 12:52 PM EDT2014-07-22 16:52:11 GMT
    Police responded to the Brooklyn Bridge on Tuesday for a major security breach at one of the most highly secured landmarks in New York City. Two white flags — international symbols of surrender — fluttered from poles on the stone supports that hold cables above the span connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan. It is not clear who raised the flags that had a faint appearance of the stars and stripes or why.  The American flags that are normally up at the bridge were removed.
    Police responded to the Brooklyn Bridge on Tuesday for a major security breach at one of the most highly secured landmarks in New York City. Two white flags — international symbols of surrender — fluttered from poles on the stone supports that hold cables above the span connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan. It is not clear who raised the flags that had a faint appearance of the stars and stripes or why.  The American flags that are normally up at the bridge were removed.
  • Polluted Gowanus Canal doesn't scare away neighborhood development

    Polluted Gowanus Canal doesn't scare away neighborhood development

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 8:57 AM EDT2014-07-22 12:57:02 GMT
    Every day, those who live and work in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn drive and bike and walk across their canal, growing a little more accustomed to but no less disgusted by its scent and appearance. Once the busiest canal in the United States, the Gowanus now bears the distinction as perhaps the most polluted body of water in the nation. No one knows exactly how polluted because few have summoned enough courage to dive into its murky depths to investigate.
    Every day, those who live and work in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn drive and bike and walk across their canal, growing a little more accustomed to but no less disgusted by its scent and appearance. Once the busiest canal in the United States, the Gowanus now bears the distinction as perhaps the most polluted body of water in the nation. No one knows exactly how polluted because few have summoned enough courage to dive into its murky depths to investigate.
  • reBar wedding venue owner gets 10-year sentence

    reBar wedding venue owner gets 10-year sentence

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 6:19 AM EDT2014-07-22 10:19:21 GMT
    The owner of a popular Brooklyn restaurant that closed abruptly and left dozen of couples without a wedding venue has been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. Jason Stevens pleaded guilty last month to grand larceny and criminal tax fraud charges. He closed his restaurant, reBar, without warning in May.
    The owner of a popular Brooklyn restaurant that closed abruptly and left dozen of couples without a wedding venue has been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. Jason Stevens pleaded guilty last month to grand larceny and criminal tax fraud charges. He closed his restaurant, reBar, without warning in May.
Powered by WorldNow

WJBK-TV | Fox 2
16550 West Nine Mile Rd.
Southfield, MI 48075

Main Station: (248) 557-2000
Newsroom: (248) 552-5103

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