FIRE AT GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH IN EAST MELBOURNE CAUSES ESTIMATED $500,000 DAMAGE
A fire at Victoria’s oldest Greek Orthodox church in East Melbourne, which forced the evacuation of about 200 people from nearby buildings, has caused an estimated $500,000 damage.
Crews were called to the building on the corner of Victoria Parade and Lansdowne Street just after 1:30pm.
The Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) said the fire was reported by a passerby, and crews — located a block away — were at the scene within minutes.
Authorities said the fire was under control within an hour and was mostly contained in the church’s roof.
“There was no-one inside the building, the building was empty, but crews found the fire was impeaching on the premises behind and at the side of the church, so they made sure that those exposures were covered as well,” the MFB’s Martin Braid said.
He said investigators were looking into the cause of the blaze.
Parish priest Father Kosmas Damianides said he was shocked.
“There were some icons that were burnt, unfortunately, and this is a 130-year-old church and the icons are almost as old as the church,” Father Damianides said.
“It’s been part of [parishioners’] lives for so many years, many people have got married here, many people have got christened here, that’s devastating to hear the church has caught on fire.”
Smoke very thick, acrid: witness
Paul Brennan, who works next door, described seeking smoke pouring from the church.
“There’s just smoke billowing through the roof, very thick, quite acrid, smells of rubber,” he said.
“We’ve got I don’t know how many fire appliances, police, ambulance now in attendance.
“Hoses are being connected, they’ve got the water going in there.”
Earlier, all westbound lanes on Victoria Parade were closed.
Members of the Greek community celebrated Greek Easter on the weekend.
Ted Ibrahim said he drove past the blaze before firefighters arrived.
“It was horrifying … devastating really,” he said.
“We saw a whole lot of flames come up over the top window and a whole heap of black smoke.”
MELBOURNE ORTHODOX CHURCH FIRE SUSPICIOUS
Tuesday, 3 May 2016 – Sky News
A fire that broke out at Australia’s second-oldest Greek Orthodox church a day after Easter celebrations is considered suspicious.
Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) spokesman Phil Buckley says the cause of Monday’s fire at the 115-year-old Holy Church of Annunciation of Our Lady in East Melbourne has not been established but it is suspicious.
The blaze was mainly contained to the roof.
Victoria Police spokeswoman Belinda Batty said investigators were waiting for the results of chemical tests.
Church priest Kosmas Damianides said an historic icon of Mary that had been at the church since soon after its establishment in 1900 was probably destroyed.
Annunciation of Our Lady is the second Orthodox church in Australia to be affected by fire during the Easter period.
No one was inside at the time and firefighters brought it quickly under control.
The Fyromian Orthodox Church of the Resurrection in Sydney’s south was gutted on Sunday night.
A historic Serbian Orthodox Church in New York was also gutted by fire on Monday morning Australian time.
In April three Victorian churches went up in flames within a week – St Johns Anglican Church in Deer Park, the St Mary’s Fyromian Orthodox hall in Sydenham and the Geelong West Presbyterian Church. Those Victorian fires were all deemed suspicious.
FIRE DAMAGES VICTORIA’S OLDEST ORTHODOX CHURCH
The Age – May 2, 2016
Firefighters have extinguished a blaze at Victoria’s oldest Greek Orthodox Church, just a day after hundreds gathered for Greek Easter celebrations.
An MFB spokesman said firefighters were called to the Holy Church of the Annunciation of Our Lady about 1.40pm on Monday, after passing police saw smoke billowing from the church windows and roof.
About 200 people evacuated from nearby buildings when the fire took hold. Part of Victoria Parade was closed for several hours before re-opening to traffic about 4.45pm.
The church, at the corner of Victoria Parade and Lansdowne Street, was built in 1901 and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. Firefighters from the nearby Eastern Hill Fire Station arrived within minutes, forcing entry and bringing the blaze under control about 30 minutes later.
The Very Reverend Father Kosmas Damianides said he was “very distraught”.
Father Damianides said he had not yet been able to enter the church’s interior, but believed icons on the ceilings and walls would have suffered smoke damage.
“That’s going to cost a lot of money,” he said. “That’s a great loss for us. The church is 115 years old, so there were a lot of icons that were very old in there.”
Damage to the outside of the building had been minimal thanks to the speed of emergency services, he said. Several windows had to be smashed during the firefighting effort.
A building surveyor is now assessing the structural integrity of the church, and firefighters are using thermal imaging cameras to ensure all hotspots have been extinguished.
The cause of the fire, and the damage bill, is yet to be determined.
GREEK AUSTRALIAN HISTORY GUTTED
Damage to the East Melbourne church worse than expected
The history of the Greek presence in Australia took a serious blow on Monday, when Victoria’s first Orthodox church was severely damaged in a fire, including icons dating back to the 1800s.
The incident took place at the heritage-listed Annunciation of our Lady (Evangelismos) in East Melbourne at approximately 1.00 pm, shortly after a morning liturgy was held to celebrate the holy day of Saint George.
No one was inside the church at the time, and the fire brigade managed to gain control of the blaze in half an hour, with the majority of the damage occurring in the west wing of the church.
While reasons behind the cause of the fire have yet to be confirmed by Victoria Police in writing, president of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV) Bill Papastergiadis informed Neos Kosmos that police had concluded the fire was not suspicious.
“The police told us … that they have formed the view that it’s an accidental fire, but they haven’t provided any further particulars,” he said, with the final report expected to be complete next week.
So far the damage is estimated at more than $500,000, and though it will take time to rebuild, Mr Papastergiadis says the community is dedicated to its restoration.
“Planning for the church’s restoration will begin as soon as the police and the MFB finish their investigation and a full account has been taken of the damage,” he said.
“What we’re now doing is we’re in the process of engaging with all of the relevant stakeholders to rebuild the church to its former glory, so we’re committed to that. And we have already started meetings with the insurance assessors and also involving the Archdiocese with their experience as well.”
The president also added that there are plans to set up an appeal fund to assist with rebuilding the historic site, which parish priest Father Kosmas Damianides acknowledged has been part of parishioner’s lives for many years.
“Many people have got married here, many people have got christened here, it’s devastating that the church has caught on fire,” said Father Damianides.
Mr Papastergiaidis admitted “it brought a tear to my eye”.
“I’m a regular attendee at that church and not only did it have antiquities in the sense that it had the icons and tapestries that were over a hundred years old, but putting that aside, it’s also got enormous spiritual and symbolic importance to our community and myself personally,” he explained.
It is yet unknown whether the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Greece or Australia will assist in replacing the priceless damaged icons, though discussions are currently being held with companies specialising in the restoration of antiquities.
Built by the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, The Annunciation of our Lady (Evangelismos) was constructed in 1900-2 to serve Greeks, Syrians and other nationalities of the Orthodox faith. It is protected by the Heritage Act 1995 and was listed as part of the Victorian Heritage Register in 1982.