Two firefighters were injured while battling a fire that gutted a nearly 120-year-old wooden church south of downtown Los Angeles Tuesday morning.
The blaze was reported at 9:27 a.m. at Crouch Memorial Church of God in Christ in the 1000 block of East 27th Street (map), a historic area of South Los Angeles. About 150 firefighters responded.
The building’s roof collapsed with firefighters inside, Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Armando Hogan said.
“The fire was so big. It spread so fast,” Pastor Lawrence Magee said.
The fire appeared to nearly destroy the two-story church, and a male firefighter was wheeled from the church on a gurney and put into an ambulance, aerial video showed.
Two male firefighters were trapped when the roof collapsed, but only one was injured, according to fire Capt. Jaime Moore. Both firefighters went to the hospital, with the uninjured man acting as moral support, Moore said.
The injured firefighter was in stable condition and was expected to remain in the hospital overnight, LAFD spokesman Erik Scott said.
Another firefighter was reported injured just before 1 p.m., when he was one of those who remained on scene pouring water on hot-spots, Moore said, clarifying an LAFD report that stated three firefighters had been injured. The firefighter felt his body “lock up,” as though electric current were going through it, Moore said.
That firefighter, also male, was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.
The white church looked severely damaged, with the second story was blackened and collapsed, aerial video showed.
The cause of the fire was under investigation, but Pastor Magee said it appeared to start from a wall heater.
“I turned it on to make sure it was working because we have prayer here every morning at 9 o’clock,” Magee said. “I wanted to make sure it was working for tomorrow — it’s supposed to rain.”
The church, built in the mid-1890s, is along a street that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. The church became an African-American congregation in the 1920s.
“It was part of a lot history, especially during the early years of the century, when they had the Prohibition movements. The Women’s (Christian) Temperance Union had meetings here every day,” Magee said.
LA architectural historian Teresa Grimes said the church was one of the only of its kind left.
“During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were wood-framed churches like this all over the neighborhood, and this is one of the very, very few that remained intact,” Grimes said.
The multiagency House of Worship Arson Task Force was investigating, according to Moore.
Those who have questions regarding prayer services or who would like to donate to help rebuild the church were asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
KTLA’s Christina Pascucci and Dave Mecham contributed to this report.