(ENS) A 100-year-old building that served as the offices of the Episcopal Diocese of
West Tennessee in Memphis was destroyed in a two-alarm fire on August 24.
No one was injured in the afternoon blaze. Nearly 90 firefighters on the scene
successfully kept the fire from spreading to St. Mary's Cathedral, next door to the three-story
diocesan offices. The fire was under control within 90 minutes.
The stone building, which once served as the bishop's residence, was under
renovation. Workers were in the process of removing paint from exterior windows with
blowtorches as well as scrapers. A spokesman for the Memphis Fire Department said the
cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The Rev. Jeffery Marx, canon at the cathedral, noticed smoke in his office in the
afternoon. He turned off his computer and left the building with colleagues. They watched
the fire spread, causing the collapse of the roof in the rear of the building.
Firefighters were able, however, to stop the fire from spreading to the cathedral,
although it was obvious there would be considerable damage from water and smoke.
"This is a real emotional time," said Dean C.B. Baker of the cathedral. "Everything is
gone. Books, notes, financial records, sermon materials -- everything," he said in an interview
with a local newspaper. "I'm just glad everyone was okay. All those things can be replaced -- but not really."
At first the firefighters found only smoke on the second floor but flames erupted
when they opened a door on the third floor. Hand-held hoses were not sufficient to extinguish
the flames growing in the walls, ceiling and attic.
Firefighters worked with church staff to remove items from the building, hoping to
preserve some of the historic items.
The cathedral, the oldest Episcopal cathedral in the South had just completed a
"This is really bad for us," said Marx, but "in terms of what we're about here and
what we're trying to continue, this won't stop us."