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ALEXANDRIA,VA:'Traumatic' fire ravages historic seminary chapel in Alexandria

ALEXANDRIA,VA:'Traumatic' fire ravages historic seminary chapel in Alexandria
Firefighters attack a blaze that ravaged the 19-century chapel of the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria on Friday afternoon. by Gerald Martineau for The Washington Post

By Christy Goodman and Martin Weil
October 22, 2010

Fire caused heavy damage Friday to a historic chapel on the grounds of the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria.

The blaze, which raged through the 19th-century Immanuel Chapel, was described by the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of the Episcopal seminary, as a catastrophe.

The blaze was reported about 3:55 p.m., and "the moment the fire took hold, it went down rapidly," Rev. Markham said of large sections of the 129-year-old building.

No injuries or damage to other buildings were reported at the facility, on the western side of the city, at Seminary Road and Quaker Lane. The cause was not yet known.

"I watched it," Rev. Markham said. "Within 40 minutes, the heart of the chapel was destroyed. It was a trauma that will stay with me."

Many members of the Episcopal clergy were ordained in the chapel. It had also been the site of marriages and funerals.

According to Rev. Markham, former president Gerald Ford, once a Virginia resident, had attended services at the chapel, including the Sunday after taking the oath of office.

In addition, he said, the worship space was used three times daily, with students required to attend at least one of the services.

Such a space, he said "really forms you."

Emblazoned above the arched stained-glass window behind the altar were the words: "Go Ye Into All The World And Preach The Gospel."

The window and the words of exhortation were lost to the fire, the seminary said in a statement.

"There are literally thousands of alumni who are devastated," Rev. Markham said.


NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: Fire Devastates Diocesan Property

By Bill Lindelof
October 21, 2010

A four-alarm fire ripped through a midtown food bank and offices of the Episcopal church early this morning.

The two buildings on 27th Street near Capitol Avenue were heavily damaged, especially the River City Food Bank. The food bank serves more than 36,000 people every year.

About 8,000 pounds of food was in the food bank when the fire broke out.

"We believe that food is gone but we have not been able to go into the building," said Lesley Miller, spokeswoman for the food bank.

The fire did not harm nearby Trinity Cathedral, the cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California.

The blaze, which is under investigation, broke out about 1:45 a.m. at the food bank. The fire spread to the diocesan offices, eventually going to four alarms with 104 firefighters responding.

Flames shot 20 to 30 feet into the air and it took more than an hour to bring the blaze under control, said Capt. Jonathan Burgess, spokesman for the Sacramento Fire Department.

"The food bank was pretty much a complete loss," said Burgess.

The food bank is not operated by the church, although it receives support from many congregations. Started by St. Paul's Episcopal it was headquartered at Trinity Cathedral at one time.

Until 1997, the food bank was affiliated with Episcopal Community Services. But for more than a decade the food bank has been independent, providing emergency food and shelter.

The diocesan office building suffered damage to the attic and rooms upstairs. Downstairs rooms were in good condition, except for water damage, Burgess said.

Two people from a nearby apartment were evacuated but then later allowed to go back to their residence.

Several people reported the fire, which is under investigation.

Firefighters had a tough time breaking through the ceiling to get to the fire in the attic of the food bank. That forced firefighters to pull out and pour water onto the two-story building from the outside.

"Firefighters did a good job stopping it," said Burgess. "Flame was 20-30 feet in the air from the food bank."

Anyone who wants to help the food bank replenish its supplies with the holidays approaching, is encouraged to donate online at rivercityfoodbank.org


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