4-alarm fire destroys multiple buildings, including historic landmark
ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - Fire crews were seen battling a 4-alarm fire that tore through multiple buildings in north St. Louis, including a historic city landmark just before 11 p.m. Wednesday.
When firefighters arrived, they found the Rectory on fire which quickly spread next door to the former St. Liborius Church. The church was built in 1889, but has recently been converted into a skatepark on the inside.
As fire crews battled the blaze, flying embers became a serious threat. Embers flying through the air and extremely dry conditions led to trouble.
Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson told News 4 that those embers blowing in the wind also led to a vacant building two blocks away to catch fire.
“All of these shingle roofs are very dry, it’s been hot all day,” Chief Jenkerson says. “All of the lawns are dry, the trees are dry, everything was catching fire from the embers.”
Fire officials tell News 4 that with a large structure that has a collapse, it is not unusual to have embers light and create a fire.
One person, a security guard, was found inside the Rectory and taken to safety.
City Hope St. Louis, a shelter for the homeless, is located next door to the church.
Bishop Michael Robinson with City Hope St. Louis says the shelter was able to survive the nearby fire.
“It’s the former Karin’s house, catholic worker home, where many many lives, women, children, those in the LGBTQ community were sheltered, the history of this home means nothing but help,” Bishop Robinson says.
The historic city landmark closed its doors in 1992.
However, more than a decade ago a group of skateboarders brought new life to the church.
Member of Sk8 Liborius Chris Grindz says they fixed it up and created an indoor skate park.
“A lot of money put into it,” Grindz says. “Ramps and mini ramps. We gave a lot of tours. Had volunteer days at least twice a month.”
In addition to hosting national skating contests and events, Sk8 Liborius also served as a place for people to spend their time with friends.
“Just a lot of culture, urban culture, it was something different,” Grindz says. “We’ve thrown a lot of events in this space, people were constantly booking the space for music videos or whatever they may be looking to do but now it’s looking like this may be the end.”
Nearly 100 firefighters came to help.
“I can’t believe it’s gone,” Grindz says. “I mean it’s here but it’s not.”
Neighbor Glenn Burton says he could hear and see it from his house.
“Started looking outside and saw some flames and noticed that the church was on fire,” Burton says.
Joss Hay says years of work went into making Sk8 Liborius the safe haven for so many skaters in the community.
“It’s hours, it’s just thousands of hours by hundreds of people to get to this point for it all to be undone by one match I guess,” Hay says.
Even though it’s a total loss, Sk8 Liborius members say they will find a way to continue their work in the community.
“It’s a huge loss to North City,” Hay says. “To St. Louis. To America. To the world. I’m from Scotland and I only moved here in 2016 and it’s been a part of my life. This has been an inspiration to skateboarders around the world.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Residents are raising concerns about what could happen to this building.
“They’ve got quite a few vacant buildings around here,” Burton says. “Hopefully they can get back into renovating it. That was the original plan but now I’m not sure what the plan will be going forward. We definitely don’t need another vacant building.”
News 4 took those concerns to St. Louis City’s Department of Public Safety.
We received this:
This is a privately owned building; thus, the owner is responsible for securing the property. If left unsecured, the Building Division will cite the owner and secure the property at the owner’s expense. The Department of Public Safety will continue to monitor the property and provide services as needed. Neighbors should report any safety concerns to 911 for emergencies or Citizens Service Bureau at 314-622-4800 for service requests.
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