Following a day of riots in Baltimore, a community center and apartments owned by the Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore were set ablaze and burnt down before firefighters managed to contain the flames.
Firefighters were forced to respond to the three-alarm fire at 8:49pm, after the flames engulfed the five-story building at Gay and Federal streets
“We were able to dispatch units as soon as we got the call,” Baltimore Fire Department spokesman Capt. Roman Clark said, as law enforcement officers with shotguns cordoned off the fire hazard area. More than 90 firefighters responded to battle the flames.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, Clark said, as riots following Freddie Gray’s funeral raged across the city. No one was injured in the East Baltimore blaze. A spokesman for the mayor of Baltimore, Kevin Harris, said the fire at the Mary Harvin Transformation Center was related to rioting in the city.
Firefighters managed to calm the fire just before 10:00pm and were spraying water over surrounding structures to ensure no flames spread.
The Southern Baptist Church was building the center to provide 60 affordable apartments and behavioral counseling for seniors. The construction was ongoing since 2006 by the Woda Group, a low-income housing developer.
“We’re going to rebuild. We’re going to come back strong from this,” the church’s pastor Donte Hickman told local media outlets. “This fire is going to spark a revival.”
The city lent $15 million towards the construction of the units. The State Department of Housing and Community Development granted another $200,000 last year toward the center.
The Southern Baptist Church fire is one of many the Baltimore City Fire Department has been battling as riots erupted throughout the city. Baltimore’s firefighters are taking precautions to protect themselves against violence.