A fire was reported by EMS at 1934 hours to central dispatch where the box was sounded for a report of a structure fire at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at 566 Park Street, cross streets Broad & Hungerford. While en-route to the scene we were alerted by dispatch that the fire was in the building next to the church (location 574 Park Street.)
DC Chief 1, Errickson immediately called for a 4th engine and the rehab bus.
Turning off Washington Street we could see heavy smoke even though we were several blocks away. Engine 8, located only a few blocks from the fire reported heavy smoke but no visible fire.
Once upon scene were faced with the dilemma of trying to locate the source of the smoke and subsequent fire. Firefighters were confronted with heavy metal gates which were locked which inhibited entry to the property. Once opened fire firefighters found smoke coming from the basement on the B-side. Prying off metal covers and forcing entry, fire poured out the windows and licked up the side of the building. Hitting it with 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 inch lines the fire stubbornly would not go out.
Gaining entry into the building firefighters were confronted with heavy smoke and fire with little chance of accessing the basement due to weakened floors and unsafe conditions. Also gaining access to the second floor, firefighters reported spongy floors with heavy fire showing. DC Errickson immediately called for a total evacuation of the building. From here the fire was fought in a defensive measure from the all sides.
Due to the nature of the fire and the age and construction of the building the fire eventually worked it's way to the third floor and finally blowing out through the roof. Where ladders 5, 6, & 2 used master streams to surround and drown the fire. Ground lines were used to extinguish flare-ups on the lower two floors.
This fire proved to be a very stubborn fire to extinguish. Crews remained on scene all night.
Due to the proximity of the church, which houses a 113 person homeless shelter, and fearing embers might ignite the church; Fire Chief Charles A. Teale ordered the temporary evacuation of the shelter located in the basement of the church.
The fire remains under investigation, but fire officials say it started in the basement of the unoccupied rectory.
1st Alarm responders: Engines 1, 5, 8 & Ladders 2, 6 With TAC 1 and District One Chief Errickson, Engine 15 (4th engine on 1st Alarm- Rapid Intervention), and Engine 11 (5th engine-rehab bus).
2nd Alarm Responders: Engines 9, 10, 14, 16 & Ladder 5.
Additionally Engine 2 was called in for pumping operations. Surrounding cities provided mutual aid bringing spare apparatus and calling in manpower from off duty shifts.
The only noted injured was reported to be Firefighter Ralph Martin from Engine Co. 10 who fell and broke his ankle due to the severe weather conditions. There was over 1 foot of snow and temps hovering right around 28 degrees for most of the night.