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Massive Multi-Alarm Fire At West Philadelphia Church Causes Parts Of Building To Collapse

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A massive fire at a West Philadelphia church is finally under control after several hours. The blaze caused parts of the building to collapse onto the street.

The three-alarm blaze erupted on Tuesday afternoon at the Greater Bible Way Temple on the 1400 block of North 52nd Street. Fire crews remained at the scene the entire night monitoring hot spots.

There has been no official cause of the three-alarm blaze yet but work was being done on the roof shortly before flames broke out.

"We're worried about collapses, so there are parts of the building that have already collapsed into it, we have parts of the building collapsed out onto the street, so we're sort of in a standoff mode," Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said.

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It was a blaze so hot that firefighters were not able to get inside the historic church.

Firefighters were called to the scene around 2:50 p.m. and the fire was placed under control shortly after 6 p.m.

It only took firefighters three minutes to get to the fire, but by that time, the damage started to take a toll on the house of worship.

"There's a heavy volume of fire inside this church and again, we understand it's a historic building so you can see we're doing our absolute best to save as much of it as we can. It's a very high-risk and dangerous situation," Thiel said.

LIVE: Chopper 3 is over the 1400 block of North 52nd Street in West Philadelphia where firefighters are battling a massive church fire. DETAILS:

Posted by CBS Philly on Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell represents the district and was on the scene of the firefight.

"They had workers on the roof who were working when a fire started out of that situation. They tried to do what they could do to get it out and of course it was too big, too fast and the fire department was pulled in," Blackwell said.

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Thiel said there were reports that everyone was out of the church at the time of the fire, but one person was transported to the hospital. The person's condition is not yet known.

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Up to 100 firefighters worked to contain the fire.

LIVE: Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel provides update on massive church fire in West Philadelphia. DETAILS:

Posted by CBS Philly on Tuesday, August 27, 2019

"This is an active firefight. We will be here the entire night dealing with this active firefight," Thiel said.

The fire commissioner said parts of the church have already collapsed and that much of the roof is gone.

Crews are working to salvage what they can from the church.

Thiel added that it's possible they might have to evacuate some adjacent buildings.

CBS3 has learned that people did live inside the church. The rectory was turned into apartments. Sources tell Eyewitness News 23 people have been displaced as a result of the fire.

The church also houses a daycare, but everyone who was inside made it out.

There is no word yet on how the fire started. Fire marshals are investigating. ATF Philadelphia is also on the scene.

The church is the former St. Gregory's Roman Catholic Church, which was built in 1904. Coincidentally, the old parish school burned down in 2009.

SEPTA says that due to the fire, trolleys are diverting over Girard Avenue westbound at Lancaster Avenue. The eastbound trolleys will divert at 63rd Street and Lansdowne Avenue.

CBS3's Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.

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