LYNN — A fast-moving fire laid waste to a church on Liberty Street early Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of more than 200 people from a nearby apartment complex, according to authorities.
The cause of the blaze that destroyed the El Siloe Seventh-Day Adventist Church has not been determined but investigators were scouring the charred debris for clues.
The first 911 call came in at 5:14 a.m. and by 5:30 a.m., a third alarm was struck, said Lynn District Fire Chief Robert Bourgeois.
When asked if the fire appeared to be suspicious, Bourgeois said of the investigators: “They’re keeping an open mind, all possibilities are being considered.” No one was injured in the blaze.
Built in 1895, according to city assessor records, the church was well-kept and had an active congregation, according to Lynn Fire Department District Chief Jack Barry.
“When I arrived it was consumed, fire everywhere,” said Abner Polynice, 58, a church member for 18 years. The church was renovated six years ago at a cost of $180,000 he said.
The last service was Saturday, but Polynice dropped by the church briefly on Tuesday at 5 p.m. to see that it was was secure, in the wake of more than half a dozen acts of vandalism recently to the building.
“They broke the windows last month seven times, I don’t know why,” he said. “They never tried to get inside, maybe they knew about the alarm, but I think they only wanted to cause damage.”
The L-shaped red brick Cobbet Hill Apartments at 498-500 Essex St. are next to the church, the two buildings separated by only a sliver of space.
The fire alarm at the complex startled many residents from their sleep, who in turn banged on doors to make sure everyone was heading outside. The building didn’t sustain any fire damage but the smell of smoke permeated the hallways.
An MBTA bus was sent to Essex Street to offers the displaced residents temporary shelter. Many residents left to stay with relatives. By 10 a.m., with the fire out, all residents were allowed to return.