A massive fire caused major damage to the century-old church in northeast Minneapolis causing it to partially collapse as protests erupted ahead of a jury verdict in Derek Chauvin's murder trial on Monday night. Firefighters responded to a large blaze at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in northeast Minneapolis after locals reported heavy fire and smoke.
Aerial footage showed thick smoke billowing from the roof of the church as firefighters worked to bring the fire under control. The exact cause of the fire is yet to be determined but initial reports say that a lot of historic artifacts have been damaged.
Up in Flames
Firefighters were called around 7 pm to the two-storied Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish church, located on the 2200 block of 5th Street Northeast, after reports of a fire on the first floor. By the time the crew reached, the century-old building was already ablaze. Videos of the fire by that time had started circulating online and in local media, which shows sizable flames and a column of smoke billowing from the church's roof as firefighters worked to put it out from ladders above the building.
Firefighters immediately rushed to the spot and rescued a few parishioners who had entered the church to try and douse the flames. However, by the time they were taken to safety, the fire had spread to the roof, which was set on flames.
According to Minneapolis Fire Department Chief Bryan Tyner, the fire was so massive and destructive that it caused a roof to partially collapse, which forced crews back into a defensive mode, attacking the roof from the air as well as handling flames that spread to the bell tower atop the church.
"Because of the construction of the church, the fire spread quickly into the attic area and it eventually burned through the roof, so unfortunately we weren't able to save this one," Tyner said. "It's going to be a total loss, but we were able to avoid any loss of life or any injuries," he added.
What Caused the Fire?
The church has a small but mighty congregation. Parishioners said that they are thankful to firefighters for saving some of the church's historic stain-glass windows although the fire has already resulted in the loss of some artifacts.
It's still unclear what triggered the fire, which broke out across town from the courthouse where Chauvin's trial was held. An investigation has been launched into the incident.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish church is around a 12-minute drive or a one-hour walk from the Hennepin County Courthouse. There is so far no indication that the blaze was linked to the demonstrations downtown. A journalist with a local ABC affiliate, Ryan Raiche, cited a church chairman who suggested the fire might have stemmed from the furnace inside the building.
Meanwhile, there were disturbing sights on the streets of Minneapolis on Monday night protesters gathered for a rally outside the courthouse, holding a brief march before disbanding.
They were also seen carrying signs and shouting anti-police slogans while demanding a guilty verdict for Chauvin, who is accused of murdering suspect George Floyd in custody last May after kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes. After some three weeks of witness testimony, jurors began mulling a verdict earlier on Monday.