"God will help us through this," pastor says after church fire
UPDATE: "We are resilient": Community vows to rebuild after church fire
FLORENCE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) -- A church was left in ruins after a massive eight-alarm fire damaged the building and threatened a nearby school Monday night.
Just after 6 p.m., hundreds of firefighters were at the Fountain of Life Center in Florence Township, New Jersey. The church is located at 2035 Columbus Rd.
"It's a devastating loss," Russell Hodgins, a senior pastor at the Fountain of Life Center, said.
More than 100 emergency teams from five counties across New Jersey battled raging flames and heavy smoke that consumed the church.
"The sanctuary's just been completely burned," Hodgins said. "The roof collapsing is a pretty embedded image in my mind."
Flames engulfed the entire front part of the church. Hodgins said a dome and cross on top of the roof collapsed into the sanctuary.
"When we saw that drop into the sanctuary," Hodgins said, "that was a pretty devastating image."
"Firefighters did a tremendous job of trying to stop the fire interiorly, it was just the size of the building the amount of fire that was here we had to switch our operation to a defensive operation," Robert Tharp, the administrator of the Florence Township Fire District, said.
Firefighters were focused on stopping the inferno from spreading to an adjacent K-12 school building.
There are no reported injuries.
Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the fire.
Hodgins said classes for roughly 300 students are canceled indefinitely.
But Fountain of Life's pastors said the church is more than just the building, it's the people.
"We have a link that's directly connecting our church building auditorium to our school, so hopefully that isn't affected," Matthew Boudwin, the student ministries pastor at the Fountain of Life Center, said.
For many like Boudwin, whose grandparents helped build the church in 1969, the loss is difficult to bear.
"This church is everything to me, everything to a lot of people," Boudwin said.
Still, through the devastation, the community of believers stands together in faith.
"The church is not brick and mortar, the church is really the body of believers," Hodgins said. "God will help us through this, and I believe the church will be stronger than ever."
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