Danbury's St. Nicholas Church Devastated By Fire

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St. Nicholas Church, a landmark on Pembroke Road in Danbury, is heavily damaged after a fire Saturday. The roof behind the onion dome has collapsed.
St. Nicholas Church, a landmark on Pembroke Road in Danbury, is heavily damaged after a fire Saturday. The roof behind the onion dome has collapsed. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
The stained-glass windows are smashed and the roof is collapsed at St. Nicholas Church in Danbury after Saturday's fire.
The stained-glass windows are smashed and the roof is collapsed at St. Nicholas Church in Danbury after Saturday's fire. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
The roof at St. Nicholas Church on Pembroke Road in Danbury has collapsed after a fire.
The roof at St. Nicholas Church on Pembroke Road in Danbury has collapsed after a fire. Photo Credit: @SenatorMike, State Sen. Michael McLachlan Twitter
According to Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton's Twitter, water was pouring out the front doors of the church.
According to Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton's Twitter, water was pouring out the front doors of the church. Photo Credit: @mayormark, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Twitter page
Danbury firefighters gather in the parking lot of St. Nicholas Church after putting out the blaze.
Danbury firefighters gather in the parking lot of St. Nicholas Church after putting out the blaze. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
The onion dome is still standing, but the roof behind it is collapsed on St. Nicholas Church in Danbury.
The onion dome is still standing, but the roof behind it is collapsed on St. Nicholas Church in Danbury. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
A charred cover of a church Missal is lying beside the road after the fire.
A charred cover of a church Missal is lying beside the road after the fire. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
The fire damage can be seen in the center and far right of St. Nicholas Church. The roof collapsed on the main sanctuary of the church.
The fire damage can be seen in the center and far right of St. Nicholas Church. The roof collapsed on the main sanctuary of the church. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
Danbury firefighters roll up hoses after the devastating church blaze Saturday.
Danbury firefighters roll up hoses after the devastating church blaze Saturday. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
Fire crews wrap up their work at St. Nicholas Church.
Fire crews wrap up their work at St. Nicholas Church. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa

DANBURY, Conn. -- Part of the roof caved in and the sanctuary of St. Nicholas Church in Danbury was destroyed in a large fire Saturday afternoon, officials said.

"It was a very intensive fire, a difficult fire to fight, as church fires are," said Danbury Fire Chief Geoff Herald. He described it as a "heavy fire" in the sanctuary.

St. Nicholas Church is located at 13 Pembroke Road, across from the Amber Room. The 18-year-old church building is noted for its onion dome on the front, which was still standing despite the intense fire. 

"The church is badly damaged, severely damaged," Herald said. The building was declared unsafe, and no one was being allowed inside, he said. "Every church fire is a big fire because of the open space, the architecture." 

No one was injured in the blaze. The cause of the blaze was under investigation, but Herald said there was no reason to believe it was suspicious. 

The fire was first reported at about 2 p.m. Saturday from an automatic alarm, Herald said. Firefighters en route confirmed smoke and called in a second alarm.

In the end, career and volunteer crews from throughout Danbury responded, as did crews from New Fairfield, Brookfield and Ridgefield, helping at the fire scene or covering stations in town, he said. 

According to Mayor Mark Boughton's Twitter account, the church was a "total loss" and water was coming out the churches front doors as of 3:15 p.m. Saturday. Pieces and pages of charred Missals littered the road along with streams of water. 

Herald said he believed some artifacts may have been recovered, but no one was being allowed inside late Saturday afternoon to save more. An official with the church declined to speak to the media. 

St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church was originally founded in 1923 on Roberts Avenue near Western Connecticut State University before moving to this new building. Although it uses the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church, it is part of the Roman Catholic Church. The church is known in the community for its Easter breads. 

Workers from the Amber Room, a popular spot for events, proms and weddings, offered assistance to firefighters on the hot afternoon. 

"This parish is very active," Herald said. "They are a critical part of the community. And the community responded to help them. The church is made up of the people, not the building. They are strong and will rebuild." 

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Comments (6)

It's a shame this church was destroyed but I'm sure it will be rebuilt and better than ever. I have many memories of attending this church with my late mother who was a loyal congregant. At times, the actual Mass was sung in Czechoslovakian - very exotic to be sure.

The loss of such a beautiful house of worship will be felt by many. Prayers to Fr. John Cigan, Deacon Steve Russo, and the entire parish of St. Nicholas as they mourn and rebuild.

@TF - you are correct that the Byzantine Catholic church is not a part of the Roman Catholic Church (which, itself, is also a part of the Catholic Church). Many people are unaware of the various Rites of the Catholic Church, as was very evident during the recent election of Pope Francis (where many news outlets reported that he was now the head of the Roman Catholic Church, which then excluded millions of practicing Catholics throughout the world).

Another error being made in these reports is the notation that Byzantine Catholics use the Greek Orthodox Rite of worship. To be precise, St. Nicholas in Danbury is a Ruthenian church that celebrates the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as per the Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church. The original cornerstone of the church did read "Greek Catholic" when it was built in 1923.

How sad! Such a beautiful building!

One quibble: the Byzantine Catholic Church is NOT part of the Roman Catholic Church. The only legality they have in common is that they both recognize the authority of the Pope. The Byzantine Catholic Church back in Europe even has a married priesthood, and there are a couple of married priests in the U.S.

You have to give Danbury and the other depts credit,they did a great job even tho it was a fast moving fire.The amount of help and comfort stations to those who were over heated was also outstanding.The response of the Danbury Hospital with its own equipment was very impressive something I havn't seen in a long time for a small city.The heat from this fire was incredible help came from everywhere a real textbook fire ground and knock down and over haul.