Fire that destroyed Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Englewood deemed accidental

A fire that destroyed legendary Antioch Missionary Baptist Church on the South Side Friday was caused by a propane torch and was accidental, officials announced Saturday.

The propane torch was being used on the roof as part of work being done on the structure at 63rd and Stewart, according to Chicago Fire Department investigators.

Meanwhile, the Englewood church announced on its Facebook page that its congregation “will continue to worship” and hold Easter services at Calahan Funeral Home, 7030 S. Halsted St. on Sunday.

“This church is an anchor in this community,” Pastor Gerald Dew told reporters at the scene Friday. “If we’ve got to lose something, losing it on Good Friday is the best time to lose it, because after Good Friday comes Resurrection Sunday.”

The fire appeared to begin in the upper rear area of the church, where crews who responded at 2:15 p.m. noticed heavy smoke, CFD spokesman Larry Langford said. No one was inside the church at the time.

Around 150 fire personnel and 50 engines, trucks and ambulances went to the scene, Langford said, adding that firefighters tried to battle the flames from above, but the truss roof made those efforts dangerous.

The fire was extinguished in about two hours, but not before the roof collapsed, officials said. A church wall along Stewart Avenue was unsupported and at risk of falling.

The South Side church is well-known for its political clout and community involvement, investing in several housing projects starting in the 1960s. The church claims to be the first church to take advantage of the National Housing Act to build senior housing with special government loans.

The church building, built in the Romanesque Revival style, was constructed in the 1880s, according to records from the Chicago Historic Resources Survey.

Contributing: David Struett, Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere

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