Crews Battle 4-Alarm Fire at San Jose Church; Parishioners Devastated

Firefighters battled a four-alarm fire that caused heavy damage to a near century-old church in San Jose Sunday afternoon, a fire dispatcher said.

Crews responded to a report of a structure fire at Holy Cross Parish at 580 E. Jackson St. around 2:20 p.m., the dispatcher said. The fire was contained at around 4:35 p.m.

Fortunately, the 1 p.m. mass had ended, and there was nobody inside.

Upon arrival, San Jose firefighters saw that the roof of the church was on fire. They began fighting the flames from the inside but the attempts failed so they began hosing from the outside.

"On arrival, we actually smelled the fire in the second-story attic space," San Jose fire Cpt. Mike Van Elgort said. "It appears it maybe have been where the organ is, which might have been potentially where the heat came from. We're still researching that but the fire moved very rapidly, the second story of this large church."

The parish hall behind the church remained in tact with no damage, a pastor said. The pastor also said he hopes the church is rebuilt but is not sure if that will happen.

But community members are mourning the loss of their church. As flames ripped through the church in San Jose, parishioners and neighbors stood by and watched in disbelief.

At one point, people watching the inferno gasped as flames overtook the cross atop the church.

For 93-year-old Ann Fitzgerald, it was like watching a lifetime of memories burn.

"Devastating," Fitzgerald said. "My parents were married in that church in 1919, and we have been parishioners the whole time, and I moved into Willow Glen after I was married, but I came back home. This is my church. This is my church. And I'm devastated."

About 100 firefighters were on scene fighting the fire. Due to the size of the fire, there is a collapse zone all around the fire to prevent anyone from getting hurt.

And because the church was built in 1919, there was no fire sprinkler, and the heavy timber and dry wood made the fire burn faster.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury and was taken to a nearby hospital.

Twelve-hundred people call Holy Cross Church their parish, and there is no word on when or where upcoming masses will be held.

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