Suspicious Fire Destroys Historic Cathedral in Manhattan

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( — May 3, 2016) —The Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sava, in the Flatiron District in New York City, was engulfed in flames on Sunday afternoon, the same day that Orthodox parishioners celebrated Easter.

Portions of the roof had collapsed, the inside fully burned and the structure unstable and in danger of falling down. Father Djokan Majstorovic explained however that everyone was safe and nobody was hurt.

168 firefighters responded to the fire. Church officials and the FDNY both said there were no reports of major injuries. The cathedral was empty when the fire started but more than 700 parishioners had celebrated Easter earlier that day.

Believers and other observers were in shock as they witnessed the flames completely engulf the historic building, calling the blaze “heartbreaking”, an “epic loss” and “an epic tragedy”.

“It was apocalyptic. Very frightening. And it’s a shame,” tourist Herman Tulp told NBC.

The Serbian Orthodox Church was designed in 1850 by architect Richard M. Upjohn in the Gothic Revival style, and was declared a New York City landmark in 1968, and registered in the US National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Frank Gribbon, a fire department spokesman told the New York Times that at the time, the blaze did not appear to be suspicious but may have been caused by church candles, and will be investigated, but that the amount of damage could complicate the effort.

“There is so much damage you cannot find the point of origin,” said a fire department spokesman.

FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Michael Gala later explained that the fire that engulfed the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava in Manhattan appeared to be significantly more intense than that caused by church candles. Because of this, they were unable to immediately determine the cause of the fire and are therefore deeming it suspicious, and under investigation.

Three other Orthodox Cathedrals burned on the same day: one in Russia and two in Australia. Three churches burned in one day, on Easter, the greatest Christian holiday, too much of a coincidence to be called just an accident but police have said there’s no evidence that they are linked. The Serbian community fears that these fires are coordinated attack on the religion.