Staff safe after one-alarm fire strikes Episcopal Church Center

July 20, 2004

A one-alarm fire caused the evacuation of the Episcopal Church Center just before 9 a.m. today after sparks emanated from an 11th-floor air-conditioning fan mechanism and sent smoke throughout the building.

The 11-floor, 42-year-old building, located at 815 Second Ave., was inspected and declared safe for re-entry at about 9:40 a.m. by New York Fire Department Chief Jack Taddeo.

Dozens of people evacuated the building after alarm systems and smoke alerted staff and guests to the fire. About 50 staff members arriving for work waited outside until the all-clear signal was given. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who with his wife, Phoebe, resides in an apartment in the Church Center, joined senior staff in assuring employees and visitors that the fire was under control.

"This morning's fire is one more reason why repairs and renovation of this building are imperative at this time," said Patricia Mordecai, chief operating officer on the national church staff, who was on scene supervising this morning's emergency procedures. "Some maintenance has simply been deferred too long in years past. Safety is our first concern."

The Episcopal Church's Executive Council, meeting in June, approved a $29.9 million renovation for the building. First phases of work began in early July to modernize the building's three central elevators. One elevator and most of the building's air conditioning system were operating as the staff returned to work after the fire. Exhaust fans were set in place to clear smoke.

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