Chicago firefighter injured after blaze tears through West Englewood church

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Sunday, February 5, 2023
Chicago firefighter injured after blaze tears through West Englewood church
A Chicago firefighter was hurt battling this fire at a church in the West Englewood neighborhood.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A decades-old church that has spent generations in West Englewood is now just mounds of burned debris after a devastating fire tore through the church Saturday morning.

"Getting up and knowing that I have a church home to go to was a big part of my life," said Pastor Edrena Bell, with Universal Temple of Christ and Training School.

Decades of a family's blood, sweat, tears and prayers were gone within a matter of minutes.

"I was just holding on for my son, who was just ordained last week to become the minister," Pastor Bell said. "To literally be standing there and watching them tear the building down, I think that was more heart-breaking than the actual fire itself."

The fire quickly tore through the Universal Temple of Christ and Training School on Damen and 56th Street in West Englewood.

The battle to stop the fire became intense at times, forcing flames out the front and back doors.

"Something exploded, and it came almost toward the window," said neighbor Ineliz Bermudez.

Luckily, no one was inside when the flames broke out, however, a Chicago firefighter was hurt while battling the blaze. That firefighter was taken to the hospital and has since been released.

While Chicago fire officials say the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Pastor Bell said she believes this was an intentionally ignited inferno, happening just as the church was planning to expand.

"As soon as we start these negotiations and they say, 'Hey! We're going to give you the lot.' Within a week's time the church is set on fire," he said. "Yes, I do believe that was intentional. I do." 22:1

Pastor Bell said she and her congregation plan to attend Sunday services at a sister church while now raising funds to hopefully rebuild.

"You can put a value on your memories," Pastor Bells said. "From my father-in-law, my mother-in-law, my husband - we just won't be able to get that back."