North Royalton, Ohio, November 13, 2017
Officials are investigating a fire that spread throughout St. Matthew the Evangelist Antiochian Orthodox Church in North Royalton, Ohio on Saturday morning, News 5 Cleveland reports.
Authorities are looking into what caused the blaze that broke out around 9:00 AM on Saturday, and crews are working to evaluate the fire and smoke damage that affected rooms throughout the entire building.
A fundraiser has been established to help the church that lost nearly its entire sanctuary.
North Royalton Fire Chief Robert Chegan says firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the church. The fire was knocked down quickly and under control within 30 minutes, Chegan said.
Fr. Andrew Harmon told Fox 8 that the building suffered extensive interior damage, although the basic structure of the building remains intact. “The beautiful things of the church, the icons and all the decorations—all that's destroyed,” Fr. Harmon said, reports Cleveland 19 News.
“Our church is pretty much gone at this point. It's a bit of a shock, we didn't expect it,” St. Matthew’s member Al Blazek said.
Fr. Anthony also said that repairs to the building could take several weeks. Parishioners are worshiping at the nearby St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cleveland in the meantime.
“We're finding places where we can have our services, have our meetings, our Bible studies, our team meetings and all those. So we maybe a little here, little there,” Fr. Harmon added. “Everything is in a whirl, but we're looking into everything we can and asking God for guidance and we're asking everyone watching to pray for us as we figure out what we need to do next,” Blazek said.
A fundraiser has been established to help the St. Matthew’s community repairs its church building and get back on its feet. Those who desire to help can make a donation at the church’s You Caring page.