Fire crews have put out an early-morning blaze that
shot through the roof at Holy Name Cathedral, the 134-year-old Chicago
landmark and the seat of Cardinal Francis George. Flames from the
three-alarm blaze shot through the church's blackened roof for about an
hour before they were replaced by plumes of white smoke. The fire was
struck out at around 8 a.m. No one was hurt.
While the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms
and Explosives as well as the city's Office of Fire Investigations has
been brought in, arson is not suspected, said Chicago fire department
spokesman Larry Langford.
George was inside the church shortly after the fire
was out to survey the damage.
Church officials say there was extensive water
damage, and fire officials were pumping water out of the basement. The
fire also burned gaping holes into the roof. "I'm just grateful to God
that the damage isn't worse than what it was," the cardinal said.
"Chicago has always bounced back from fires We'll bounce back from
this." Chicago Archdiocese Chancellor Jimmy Lago said he expects the
church to be closed for months.
He says sacramental records that were kept in a
fireproof vault in the rectory are believed to be safe. Lago and fire
department officials said the church suffered significant water damage.
Priests and nuns were inside the rectory near the
cathedral when the fire started, but everyone escaped safely. No one was
in the cathedral.
One firefighter was injured battling the blaze and
was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in good to fair condition,
Fire Media Affairs spokesman Quention Curtis said.
The Rev. Dan Mayall, Holy Name's pastor, said those
in the rectory were awakened by a priest knocking on doors. The fire
alarm went off, and everyone exited the building safely, Mayall said.
Langford said ten people in the rectory escaped without injury.
The fire department got the initial call at 5:29 a.m.
for a fire burning in the roof of the cathedral at 735 N. State St.
Flames were visible coming from the roof of the church about 6 a.m.
Restoration and repair work on the building was
recently completed after engineers determined that structural weaknesses
in the roof caused a 10-pound piece of decorative wood to fall 70 feet
from the ceiling last February. No one was injured in that incident. "We
have gone through a lot in the last year and it's a shame to see that
we're back to square one again," Mayall said. Parishioner Kathy Sorvillo,
60, lives just a block away and after hearing about the fire on the
news, she came to see how bad it was.
"To rebuild something so beautiful is going to be
hard," she said bundled up against the cold. "I'm really sad. I don't
know what we'll do now." The church and its nearby buildings, including
a school and rectory, take up an entire block in downtown Chicago. The
fire hadn't damaged those buildings. The original Holy Name was
destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire and the parish rebuilt, opening the
new cathedral in 1875. The fire comes amid a $10 million "Restore &
Renew" fundraising campaign to renovate and update the cathedral and
other structures on its campus. The last major renovation took place in