Monday, June 24, 2024

Faith Lutheran Church on Broadway in The Port billows smoke Sunday. (Photo: Tom Meek)

A fire reported at Faith Lutheran Church in The Port lasted some four hours Easter Sunday, drawing aid from numerous surrounding communities. First reported at 5:30 p.m., it turned into a six-alarmer over the next couple of hours, with wisps of smoke becoming gray billows.

Faith Lutheran Church, led by the Rev. Robin Lutjohann, is at 311 Broadway, near Sennott Park. Lutjohann has called it “a quirky and lovely little church” and “amazing” and  “wonderfully weird.” The three-story, stucco-walled church was built in 1920, according to the city’s assessment database.

The day began with an hourlong 10 a.m. Easter service held in-person and streamed live online, according to the church calendar. An Eritrean Evangelical Church worship followed from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., the calendar said.

A second alarm went out for the fire at 5:34 p.m., followed by a third alarm at 5:49 p.m. and a fourth at 6:28 p.m. The fifth alarm came at 6:34 p.m. Each alarm signifies a call for more help or different kinds of help. After an hour, Arlington firefighters were called to join the Cambridge and Somerville crews already on scene. Brookline and Waltham crews arrived afterward, according to scanner reports. Belmont engines provided support as well.

At 6:17 p.m. came a call to “transition to an exterior attack” with all firefighters to leave the structure and beware slate clay tiles falling from the roof. A call to evacuate surrounding buildings was heard shortly afterward.

The Faith Lutheran Church fire on Broadway in Cambridge at around 8:45 p.m. Sunday. The orange glow in the center window hints at the massive size of the blaze within. (Photo: Mike Connolly)

The fire stubbornly continued to burn throughout the structure until at 7:42 p.m. a firefighter warned of “distinct cracking coming from the steeple.” The crews were warned to maintain an appropriate stand-off distance in case it came down, and the call went out for a sixth alarm that would bring in Medford, Chelsea and Newton engines.

As the blaze entered its third hour, now being fought in the dark, scanner reports said there remained “heavy fire” on the first floor that was venting through the steeple. “This will continue to be an extended operation,” a firefighter said.

State Rep. Mike Connolly was on the scene, calling it a “terrible night in my neighborhood. I hope everyone is okay.”

A message was texted to Lutjohann on Sunday asking where the congregation might go to meet and what help might be needed.