‘It has made us and God angry’: North Philly church burns just before Easter

A North Philadelphia church that’s been a pillar of the community burned in a three-alarm fire Thursday afternoon, leaving the small congregation without a worship space just before Good Friday and Easter Sunday. 

More than 100 firefighters responded to the fire at The Original Apostolic Faith Church of the Lord Jesus Christ on the 1500 block of Broad Street near Temple University. No injuries were reported.

As of late Friday afternoon, Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said the church building was still full of water and not structurally sound enough for investigators to move in to determine the cause.

“We don’t even know where to start looking,” Thiel said, “because our crews yesterday were met with very heavy fire and smoke conditions when they got about 40 feet inside the building, making an aggressive interior attack as they always do in search for life. They were driven out of the building by heat, fire, and smoke.”

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In the meantime, Fred Tookes — the son of the church’s founding pastor and owner of the building — said the congregation is still trying to figure out where it will hold Easter services.

“It’s a crying shame,” said Tookes, a longstanding member of the Yorktown community and an outspoken activist in the neighborhood. “Whatever happens, it has made us and God angry.”

Churches and synagogues in the area have offered to share their services and spaces for the weekend, but, for now, Tookes said he is just focusing on the investigation into what caused the fire to start and engulf the 40-year-old church.

“A beautiful thing can come out of this,” he said. “We’re going to rebuild, and we’re going to stay.”

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