HELL’S KITCHEN — A fire near a Hell’s Kitchen church may have been “intentionally” set, police and the FDNY said.
Around 9:49 p.m. on April 26, an unknown person or people “intentionally” started a fire outside the basement door leading into Trinity Presbyterian Church at 222 W. 57th St., between Ninth and 10th avenues, the NYPD said.
An FDNY spokesman on Friday said the fire is still under investigation, but confirmed that it is being considered “incendiary."
Neither he nor police provided any additional information about the extent of the fire or how it started.
On Friday, the church's moderator the Rev. Marcel Welty said he went to the church on the night of the fire and found “a couple of cigarette butts in the stairwell.”
“[M]y working explanation has been that a smoker walking by, or at a nearby window, threw a cigarette out and it caught on a mop that was drying under the concrete stairs,” he wrote in an email.
He said he heard a rumor that a number of people saw someone start the fire, try to put it out and run away when the fire trucks arrived, but couldn’t confirm this.
The fire left some smoke stains and soot on the wall and door, but was confined “to one mop head in the stairwell,” he added.
“There was smoke which came into the building from outside, but that dissipated fairly quickly,” he said. “The fire itself caused no damage to the building.”
The church’s council met on Thursday evening, but “didn’t know [for sure] what happened,” he added.
A large fire broke out in the church's basement back in 2014, but didn't result in any injuries.