Fire crews were battling a blaze Friday night at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, according to college spokesman Christian Kendzierski.
The fire, which was first reported at 8:41 p.m., had not been extinguished at 9:30 p.m., according to Brian Easterday, the manager of communications at the Frederick County Office of Emergency Communications.
“I can confirm that the bell tower is on fire and there are (fire) engines at the scene,” Kendzierski said. “It’s smoking and it’s on fire.”
Easterday said the building was temporarily evacuated and that firefighters were only battling the blaze from the outside.
Kendzierski said he spoke with the university’s director of public safety, who was at the scene. The chapel, which opened its doors in 1910, according to the university’s website, underwent renovations that were completed in 2011. It is the university’s main chapel.
The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear.
UPDATE: From the school’s website:
Shortly after 8 p.m. on July 19 the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception – bell tower was struck by lightning during a passing storm. A Mount student witnessed the strike and immediately notified the Mount Office of Public Safety. After inspection, the Public Safety officer called Frederick County 911 to report smoke.
The Emmitsburg Fire Station 6 responded, along with firehouses from northern Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania. At 10:40 p.m. the fire was contained and believed to have remained within the Chapel’s bell tower.
The Chapel was vacant at the time of the fire and no injuries reported.
“We thank the observant and quick thinking student, the responsive officers here at the Mount and the firehouses that sent crews from Emmitsburg, Northern Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania. The fireman risked their lives to save our beloved IC Chapel. We give our thanks to God that the fire was contained but mostly we thank God no one was injured and our Mount students are safe.” President Thomas H. Powell, Mount St. Mary’s University
You can view photos of the fire and damage on the school’s Facebook page.