DENVER — A fire broke out at the Odom Memorial Church of God in Christ at E. 33rd Avenue and N. Williams Street Thursday morning.
According to the Denver Fire Department, more than 60 firefighters responded to the two-alarm blaze.
Fire officials told Denver7 that flames burned heavily in the attic area and upper floor.
Capt. Greg Pixley said they're still trying to determine the cause and origin.
Pixley said the fire was first reported at 6:16 a.m., and that by calling in more firefighters on a second alarm, they were able to save the building.
He said the fire was officially under control around 7:15 a.m.
"Unfortunately, one of our firefighters did fall through the floor of a burned area in the offices," he said. "Luckily, that firefighter only sustained some minor injuries and is back to work today."
Neighbors reported hearing an explosion.
"Seeing the smoke and seeing the flames was really gut wrenching," said neighbor Alana Miller. "My wife and I were standing there crying — because just to see that happen and hear it is really devastating."
The historic building apparently began life as the Alpine Theater, according to Cinema Treasures and was later renamed the Uptown Theatre.
Bishop W.H. McDonald, the senior pastor, said he's grateful no one was inside when the fire broke out.
"I'm blessed and I'm thankful that we were just in our church on Easter Sunday," he said. "It was the first time we had been in there in a year because of COVID-19."
The senior pastor's son, A.J. McDonald, an assistant pastor, said it hurts to see the damage after 38 years of labor and love.
"A lot of blood, sweat, tears and prayers have gone on in this sanctuary," A.J. said, adding that Odom Memorial is more than a church.
It's an entity that fulfills a big need in the community, he said.
"My father was inspired to start an outreach ministry because we kept hearing testimonies and people just praying about family members struggling with addiction," A.J. McDonald said.
He added that they do more than counsel residents.
"We tend to them spiritually and if they're hungry, we feed them. If they're naked, we clothe them, just like the Bible says," he said.
Work crews began tearing down debris loosened by the fire late Thursday afternoon.
The McDonalds said a lot of work will be required to repair the damage.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the congregation begin the interior rebuilding process.
Final update from the #DenverFireDepartment. Over 60 firefighters were on scene, hot spots have been found and extinguished, no injuries reported, crews will be released soon, traffic will be an issue in the area, alternative routes are suggested. @CityofDenver @DenSafetyDept pic.twitter.com/HN22myw3ym— Denver Fire Dept. (@Denver_Fire) April 8, 2021
A.J. McDonald said it may be a while before services are offered inside the church again.
"One thing the pandemic has taught us is how to be flexible and how to transition," he said. "It's forced us into modern technology and using our own platform, so that's what we're going to do."