Fire damages historic West Orange church

The church was also known for many years as St. Mark's Episcopal Church and is a landmark in the West Orange community.

The church was also known for many years as St. Mark's Episcopal Church and is a landmark in the West Orange community. (1/1/16)

WEST ORANGE - An early morning fire severely damaged a historic church in Essex County on New Year’s Day.

The fire at the former St. Mark's Episcopal Church in West Orange started around 5 a.m. Friday and burned for more than three hours before it was brought under control.

Several fire crews assisted in extinguishing the blaze. The roof of the church caved in due to the fire.

Firefighters tell News 12 New Jersey that the building's age and condition played a major role in the fire's intensity.

"It was an old church, heavy timber construction in the roof, lot of timbers, dry and old," says Deputy Chief Albert Souza. "A lot of decorations and draperies inside added to the fire."

The cause of the fire is under investigation. No one was injured.

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office tells News 12 New Jersey that the office is aware of several building code violations filed against the church in 2015. However, it has not been determined if the violations played any role in the fire at this time.

The church is known as a landmark in the West Orange community. The Gothic revival church was built in 1827 and was listed as a historic place by Preservation New Jersey in 1996.

The Episcopal Diocese of Newark closed the church in 2004 and sold it about a year ago. It's now occupied by the Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal Church.

Church officials say that they hope to rebuild the historic building.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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