JERSEY CITY - A fast-moving fire ripped through an Islamic center in Jersey City early this morning.
The blaze on West Side Avenue was under control by about 6:45 a.m. Friday, about an hour after it was reported.
At its height, smoke was billowing out of Al-Tawheed Islamic Center. "There was so much thick smoke coming out and everything from each and every direction," says Bilal Arshad, of Jersey City.
The place of worship was gutted, and the loss is deeply felt by the hundreds who pray there.
"My second house," says Mohamad Salem, of Bayonne. "And now it has burned. It doesn't matter. You've got to build it again."
The bitter cold froze hydrants and formed ice in the street, making fighting the fire even more difficult.
Investigators with the ATF were called following the fire, which is standard practice for places of worship, according to the city's fire chief, and not an indication the fire was deliberately set.
Friday is the holiest day of the week for Muslims. The fire came just hours before hundreds of worshippers were expected to gather at the mosque for the typical Friday gathering. Today's prayers were moved to the city's armory.
No injuries were reported.