A historic Manhattan church was destroyed in a raging fire Sunday afternoon just hours after worshippers left the building.
The fire that started at 7 p.m. at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral sent plumes of smoke billowing into the city’s skyline. The blaze was largely extinguished three hours later, but firefighters had to beat back small pockets of flames. Authorities didn’t disclose the cause of the fire, which gutted the building and destroyed the roof.
Fire officials said the church’s caretaker ran inside the Gothic Revival style building to try to put out the blaze but suffered minor smoke inhalation and had to be rescued.
“I was just inside that building three hours ago,” a heartbroken Dex Pipovic, told PIX11 News. He said he had been going to the church for seven years.
Alex Velic, 31, the caretaker’s stepson, told the Daily News he lives next door. He said he smelled smoke and came outside and saw the church on fire.
“Once the fire caught the wood there was flames coming out of the top of the church. That’s when people were going crazy,” Velic said. “I’m in shock. I don’t know what to say. It’s sad.”
Father Djokan Majstorovic, the church’s priest, struggled to get to the fire scene blocked off by firefighters. “I feel like I’m in a nightmare right now,” he said.
The church was designed by architect Richard M. Upjohn and was built in the early 1850s. It was designated a city landmark in 1968.