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Questions Follow Devastating Fire At Historic Englewood Church

The aftermath.
The aftermath. Photo Credit: Matthew Speiser
Investigators were to begin sorting through what remained.
Investigators were to begin sorting through what remained. Photo Credit: Matthew Speiser
The pastor was trying to determine where to conduct holy day services.
The pastor was trying to determine where to conduct holy day services. Photo Credit: Matthew Speiser
Many questions remained -- for the church, fire investigators and city officials.
Many questions remained -- for the church, fire investigators and city officials. Photo Credit: Matthew Speiser
Ron Bombaro video
Ron Bombaro video Video Credit: tornadochaser66
The blaze at First Presbyterian Church in Englewood turned the steeple into a torch.
The blaze at First Presbyterian Church in Englewood turned the steeple into a torch. Video Credit: Jerry DeMarco
Firefighters attacked the blaze from all sides.
Firefighters attacked the blaze from all sides. Photo Credit: Damien Danis
The fire broke out just before 8 p.m.
The fire broke out just before 8 p.m. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Jack Dunn, Regional Fire Photos
The steeple burns.
The steeple burns. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Jack Dunn, Regional Fire Photos
East Palisade Avenue onlookers.
East Palisade Avenue onlookers. Photo Credit: Jerry DeMarco

ENGLEWOOD, N.J. -- Authorities and officials from an historic Englewood church that was ravaged by fire Tuesday night were each seeking answers to important questions early Wednesday.

Among them are how the multi-alarm blaze that consumed the sanctuary of the 19th Century church on East Palisade Avenue started. They also announced that an Easter service will be held at 11 a.m. at bergenPAC.

UPDATE: The sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church in Englewood was destroyed by fire Tuesday night, but The Rev. Richard Hong said Wednesday that wise firefighters "saved the part we use every day" -- including classrooms and offices. READ MORE....

The Bergen County Prosecutor's Arson Investigation Unit was at the scene, as is the protocol with such large fires. Meanwhile firefighters continued to wet down potential hot spots.

"We don't know yet" what the cause could be but it wasn't considered suspicious, Englewood Deputy Fire Chief Erik Enersen told Daily Voice.

More than 100 firefighters responded to the blaze, which broke out shortly before 8 p.m..

No one was inside at the time, said the Rev. Richard Hong, the church pastor, adding that the fire apparently ignited on the balcony. That meant the devastation of First Presbyterian's Möller pipe organ -- Bergen County's largest -- which was restored and expanded five years ago.

"It was such an historical structure," said Enerson, the deputy chief. "It's sad to see so much damage to an important building."

Located a few blocks east of the downtown shopping district, the Victorian Gothic landmark was built in 1870, a decade after it became Bergen County's first Presbyterian church. Congregants hail from more than 30 towns.

"Having been raised in this church, as was my father (Dr. Graham Clark), my heart is sad tonight," Margo Clark Swezey of Midland Park wrote late Tuesday. "I do know the great strength of First Presbyterian Church and I am sure that it will prevail."

"So many memories of hours spent there. My parents are in the garden," added Lucy Lester Schmidt. "May hope and healing rise out of the ashes."

Hong said school was cancelled for the week and arrangements would be made for future instruction and the weekend's two scheduled Easter services.

Several churches both near and far immediately reached out to him.

"To our dear friends at First Presbyterian, please know that I and the whole St Paul's Church in Englewood Parish Family holds you in prayer," the Rev. Dr. William H. Allport II wrote. "What ever ways we are able to support you in the immediate and on-going days of recovery, we are here with you.

"In these days of Holy Week, the Tridiuum, and Easter, know that you are welcome, always!"

"Our church (Totowa United Methodist) burned down to the ground in the '60s," wrote Patricia Gibbons, "so many of our parishioner will feel your pain. If there is anything we can do, let me know and I'll pass the word along. We have services Thursday, Friday and Sunday, and all are welcomed."

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