FLATIRON — Still-smoldering candles likely sparked a massive fire that destroyed the historic Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava, the FDNY said.
Investigators are focusing on a caretaker who put candles that weren't fully extinguished into a box under a table at the church as the cause of the blaze that tore through the church at 13 W. 25th St., between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, on Sunday, an FDNY spokesman said.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said at an unrelated event Tuesday that while the investigation was not yet complete, the department was eyeing the caretaker, who removed a number of lit candles from somewhere inside the church before placing them in the box.
"It's not definitive yet, but that's the focus," spokesman Frank Dwyer said.
The fire began around 6:49 p.m. Sunday, a few hours after parishioners celebrated Easter at the site.
Firefighters brought it under control by 8:30 p.m., FDNY officials said.
Five firefighters and a civilian sustained minor injuries during the blaze, officials said.
A city Department of Buildings spokesman said the condition of the church’s structure “remain[ed] stable” as of Tuesday afternoon.
A sidewalk shed has been constructed to protect against any debris falling from the façade, he added.
St. Sava’s executive board is currently accepting donations on its website, according to the church's Facebook page.
Church officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Formerly an Episcopal Church known as Trinity Chapel, the 1850 cathedral designed by Richard Upjohn became St. Sava’s in 1944 after the Episcopal Diocese sold it in 1943, the church’s website said.
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Edith Wharton was married there.