No foul play suspected in devastating North Royalton church fire

NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio - Firefighters in North Royalton have ruled out foul play, but have yet to determine the exact cause of the fire that has now displaced dozens of families and a pastor from their church home.

Father Andrew Harmon of St. Matthew Orthodox Church said, “It’s sad, it’s a mess, but God will help us. We’ll be okay.”

It was just before 9 Saturday morning. Father Andrew Harmon was alone inside St. Matthew Orthodox Church on Albion Road in North Royalton.

He says he was preparing meals for the needy when he heard the alarms, then smelled smoke coming from the opposite side of the church where the sanctuary is located.

“.... went out to the hall there wasn’t really anything going on there. But I smelled it.  Went into the church, and we had a pretty big fire in the front corner of the vestry and I call the fire department right away,” said Harmon.

It took North Royalton firefighters just minutes to arrive at the scene. They released this video to FOX 8, showing the heavy smoke billowing from the structure.

North Royalton Fire Chief Robert Chegan said, “Our first engine got there and they saw significant fire and smoke coming from the church area basically,  half of it's a  church area and the other half is the social and office area.”

It took crews and mutual aid about 30 minutes to put out the fire. It was contained to the older part of the church, built in 1965.

Pews, Bibles, Orthodox paintings and other religious symbols are now gone.

The pastor’s drive to rebuild and his spirit are unwavering.

Harmon says, “The building, as important as it i,s and it’s really important,we’re finding that out after three days, but the main thing is the people and God with us to help us. We’ll be okay.”

Father Harmon adds they currently are in the process of trying to find a new temporary place to worship.

The damage is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The church is not expected to re-open for another 6 to 12 months.