Firefighter meeting interrupted by fire at oldest church in Montgomery County

Officials at the Episcopal Church of The Redeemer in Bryn Mawr are crediting firefighters for getting to the scene quickly before the fire caused more damage to the 143-year-old church.

Coincidentally, when the fire alarm call came in around 8:30 Monday night, nearly every member of the fire department was at the station finishing up a weekly meeting and having a chicken soup dinner.

16 firefighters were on scene in less than three minutes. The fire chief thinks the response time was one of the big reasons the church was saved.

"We were coming to a fire alarm. 99 percent of the time, there’s nothing to the fire alarm other than some sort of faulty system. When I saw the smoke from the roof, the first thing I thought about what was the church having a service," said Bryn Mawr Fire Chief Dan Kincade.

There was no service or anyone inside the church when the fire broke out. It took crews from seven area fire departments and two hours to help the church, designed in Gothic revival style, from sustaining major damage.

"They did such a great job. They worked really professionally. They were really smart and really attentive to the special needs of a church," said Joshua Castaño, Parish Administrator for the church.

Tuesday afternoon, fire remediation crews are already on site repairing the roof and cleaning smoke damage from the church, which was built in 1881. For Kincade, a 50-year firefighter, he’s glad to play a part in saving a local landmark.

"We were damn lucky. We could have had a couple holes in the roof and we could be talking about a hole in the ground right now that we were not able to save," he added.

A memo to parishioners says it may be several weeks or even months before regular worship returns to the church. In the meantime, Sunday services will be held in the Parish Hall.

"We know that their work played a huge, huge part in making sure it wasn’t worse," said Castaño.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.