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Fire Guts Decades-Old Bushwick Church That Serves the Poor

By Jeanmarie Evelly | August 30, 2017 3:13pm | Updated on August 31, 2017 7:46am
 FDNY extinguished a fire that broke out Wednesday at Mt. Paran Baptist Church in Brooklyn.
FDNY extinguished a fire that broke out Wednesday at Mt. Paran Baptist Church in Brooklyn.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

BUSHWICK — A large fire Wednesday morning gutted a nearly 30-year-old church that regularly feeds and clothes the poor, authorities said.

The fire started at Mt. Paran Baptist Church, located at 1665 Broadway and Schaefer Street on the border between Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, just before 11:30 a.m., according to the FDNY

It took firefighters about an hour and a half to extinguish the "substantial fire" that broke out in the area between building's ceiling and roof. The church was open at the time, though no one was injured in the blaze, according to FDNY Deputy Chief Patrick Sheridan.

"Everyone that was inside got out safely," he said. 

The cause was later determined to be accidental, due to the building's electrical wiring, the FDNY said. 

Yvonne Graham, who's run a food pantry program at the church for more than two decades, said she was inside getting ready to serve the day's free lunch when the blaze broke out. 

FireThe fire started at Mt. Paran Baptist Church, located at 1665 Broadway and Schaefer Street (DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly)

"All I could smell was smoke — black smoke," she said.

Graham and others left the building and watched firefighters douse the blaze from across the street. Most of church's windows were shattered, and debris from inside the building was piled up along the sidewalk. 

"I don't know what we're going to do," said Elender Jones, a deacon at Mt. Paran.

The church, which was founded in 1988, offers free meals three days a week while operating a food pantry on Thursdays and providing clothing to those who need it, according to Jones. 

"We try to serve the people of the community," Jones said. "Right now we don't know exactly what we're going to do. We have to assess the situation." 

Luzdelia Arroyo, who lives nearby, said the church is an important resource in the area.

"A lot of people are going to suffer behind this. We've got homeless people that are going hungry in this neighborhood — they go in there to eat breakfast. It's a loss," she said.

"This is a real community church," added Bernadette Williams, who grew up nearby and visits Mt. Paran often. 

"It's really is a shame. I know they'll rebuild, but it's just, when?"