City officials said Friday that the owners of the 115-year-old West Philadelphia church devastated by a three-alarm fire last week can proceed with demolishing the severely damaged roof, which already had been declared “imminently dangerous.”
The Department of Licenses and Inspections conducted an inspection Friday at the Greater Bible Way Temple at 52nd and Warren Streets and said the church can go ahead with a privately contracted demolition, though the owners will still need to secure proper permits, said L&I spokesperson Karen Guss.
If the condition of the roof worsens in the meantime, the city could intervene with an emergency demolition, Guss said.
During the inspection on Friday, L&I discovered more than a dozen adults living in the rectory building in “deplorable and unsafe conditions,” Guss said in an email.
The conditions included “an inoperable fire alarm, insect infestation, compromised electrical system, and leaking and water damage throughout” the building, Guss said. The people living there have until noon Monday to vacate the building, and they were encouraged to contact the city’s Office of Homeless Services for assistance, she said.
News reports at the time of the fire and its immediate aftermath said that the church was operating a homeless shelter and a day-care center.
Church representatives could not be reached for comment Friday.
A GoFundMe drive launched a day after the Aug. 27 fire had raised $3,207 of its $1 million goal as of Friday night.
The city fire marshal has ruled that the blaze was accidental and was ignited by a roofer’s torch.
Bishop Benjamin F. Peterson Jr., the senior pastor, said Sunday at a service outside the church that the fire caused an estimated $6 million in damage.
Peterson said he hoped to raise enough money to install a new roof by Christmas and redo the church interior in time for his birthday next May.