[Episcopal News Service] A fire broke out on the roof of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in New York City on Sept. 10, damaging the building but causing no injuries, according to the Queens hospital, which is affiliated with the Diocese of Long Island.
“[The New York City Fire Department] was able to extinguish the fire very quickly and there were no fire-related injuries. For that we are extremely grateful. The roof, however, was destroyed and there was significant damage to tower eleven,” said the Rt. Rev. Lawrence Provenzano, bishop of Long Island and chairman of the hospital’s board of directors.
Firefighters quickly evacuated patients and staff, said Renée Hastick-Motes, the hospital’s vice president of external affairs, in a statement the day after the fire. The cause was not yet known, Hastick-Motes wrote.
St. John’s is the only hospital providing emergency and ambulatory care in Far Rockaway, which the federal government has designated as an area with a shortage of medical providers. The neighborhood has been hit especially hard by COVID-19; according to the hospital, Far Rockaway saw the second highest COVID-19 death rate in New York City during the peak of the pandemic.
St. John’s, which identified the first COVID-19 patient in Queens, was the subject of a May 2020 New York Times video documentary about its role on the front lines of the pandemic. Proposed state budget cuts that would have reduced the number of beds from 257 to as few as 15 were put on hold in March after community opposition.
Provenzano shared the news of the fire in an email to his diocese commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, noting the eerie timing of the fire. Provenzano served as a chaplain at Ground Zero in the weeks after the attack.
“Yesterday evening, as I saw the thick, black smoke billowing from tower eleven of our hospital, I vividly recalled the scene in lower Manhattan twenty years ago,” he wrote.
“I am grateful today for the many brave men and women of the FDNY, and all the first responders, who risked everything in the aftermath of that horrific event. My prayers are with them and for all those—including the many in our diocese—who suffered loss that day.”
– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.