Suspicious Fire In Brooklyn Church Destroys Hurricane Relief Supplies
By Erin Clarke
NY 1, December 24, 2012
A $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest in connection with a fire at a church in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn Sunday that fire officials say may have been deliberately set.
According to a New York City Fire Department spokesperson, the two-alarm fire that started around 4:30 a.m. outside the Church of St. Luke And St. Matthew at 515 Clinton Avenue appears to have been deliberately set.
The fire spread to the church’s foyer and was under control within couple of hours.
No injuries were reported and the main sanctuary was not damaged, but part of the church’s main hallway will require repairs.
“When I got here about 5:10 a.m., I don’t live too far away, I saw smoke,” said Al Wiltshire, the church warden.
Members of the congregation were worried for what the church contained: supplies and Christmas gifts for New Yorkers affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Since the storm struck on October 29, thousands of volunteers, included members of the Occupy Sandy movement, have come to the church to be part of relief efforts.
On Saturday, a group of volunteers wrapped holiday gifts for children affected by Sandy at the church.
“We had about 100 volunteers in the church yesterday, wrapping gifts for children who were displaced by the storm,” said Michael Sniffen, the church’s rector.
“We’ve been sending people out to affected areas. We’re sending out hot food and clothes, blankets, cleaning supplies, baby supplies, baby food, baby toys,” said LJ Marquez, an Occupy Sandy volunteer.
Volunteers in Fort Hamilton
Church members and volunteers said the fire will not hinder their efforts. On Sunday, volunteers were sent to another site, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fort Hamilton.
“There’s a coalition of churches and a coalition of kitchens and a coalition of groups that are working on this issue. So hopefully, if anything happened to any one of us, the rest of us are going to help pick up the slack,” said Jamie Kemmerer, a volunteer.
The volunteers pledge to work seven days a week throughout the holidays, to provide hot meals to Sandy victims in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
Members of St. Luke And St. Matthew, who held Sunday services at the neighboring Brown Memorial Baptist Church, said once they are allowed back into their church they will keep their volunteer efforts going as if the fire never happened.
“This is a little hiccup in the life of the community, but we’re going to continue doing all the ministries that we’ve been doing in support of our neighbors,” Sniffen said.
The Occupy Sandy movement is always looking for volunteers and donations. Organizers said they had a “Christmas miracle” on Friday, when they almost ran out of food but a last-minute monetary donation allowed them to keep going.
Volunteers who want to help Occupy Sandy can go to one of the group’s bases, with no need to call beforehand. For more information, visit interoccupy.net/occupysandy.