Pastor looks to future after fire

Hampden minister plans to rebuild church

January 08, 1999|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The pastor of a Hampden church that was nearly destroyed in a fire Wednesday vowed yesterday to rebuild, though it was not clear whether the 89-year-old stone building could be saved.

"Our plan is to build again," said the Rev. Thomas Cobb, pastor of Apostolic Truth Tabernacle on West 36th Street, off Falls Road in North Baltimore. "We are not sure if it will be here, but our church will move on."

A city building inspector condemned the stone structure, which was built in 1910, mostly because the hand-carved mahogany roof had burned through. Cobb said a team of engineers will determine whether the building can be repaired.

Fire officials estimated damage at $700,000. They said the fire started in or near a furnace near a wall that separates the main worship area from a smaller sanctuary.

The fire, reported at 4: 30 p.m., traveled up the partition wall and quickly spread across the vaulted ceiling and wood rafters, which supported a slate roof. Two firefighters were slightly injured fighting the blaze.

The four-alarm fire was the seventh multi-alarm blaze in Baltimore since Dec. 26. In the past two weeks, 20 dwellings have been destroyed or damaged and more than 60 people left homeless. Damage estimates top $1 million, but no serious injuries or deaths have occurred.

A two-alarm fire yesterdaymorning burned out a rowhouse in the 1600 block of James St. and damaged adjacent dwellings. The occupants, alerted by a smoke detector, escaped unharmed, but three firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Wednesday's church fire in Hampden remained under investigation yesterday, said Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a Fire Department spokesman. Firefighters removed the furnace and heating ducts.

Cobb visited the church yesterday with some of his 120 parishioners. He was not sure where he would hold Sunday services, but he said several churches and the Fraternal Order of Police have offered space.

The stone walls of the church appeared to be sturdy. A red "Condemned" sign was posted on the front door. Firefighters had to break out the stained-glass windows, and plywood had replaced the windows.

Inside, water-soaked Bibles were lying in thick soot that covered the floor. Pews were overturned and white walls were blackened and scorched.

Cobb waited yesterday for an insurance adjuster and a structural engineer. Until they report on their findings, he said, "I have no idea what I'm going to do."

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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