PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Fire Marshals continue to investigate what caused a blaze that left the historic St. Leo’s Church in ruins. Crews are still on the scene in Tacony Monday fighting the fire, which rose to two alarms Sunday night.
St. Leo’s Church was built back in the 1880s and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia says after this fire the building is likely a total loss.READ MORE: 2 Atlantic City Councilmembers Request State Troopers Assist Police After Violent Weekend
“A lot of memories, a lot of baptisms and weddings and school masses and graduations,” former parishioner Bethanne Wesolowski said.
Nearly 140 years of memories are gone. And on Monday morning, more than 12 hours after the fire was first reported, fire crews are still dousing the building with water to put out hot spots.
As the historic St. Leo’s Church burned on Sunday afternoon, all former parishioners could do was watch.
“I learned how to be an altar server here, my brother was married here, all our sacraments were here, it’s sad,” Charles Tschopp said. “It’s sad to see it go.”
Video uploaded to the Citizen App shows just how fully engulfed in flames the building was.
Chopper 3 was overhead as fire crews scrambled to get the 2-alarm fire under control.
Over 100 firefighters fought the fire for two hours.
Seemingly the entire community has come out to see what looks like the end of St Leo’s Catholic Church.
“Just really sad, it’s just a beautiful church,” former parishioner Dave Watson said.
“It’s sad. The church is Tacony so when you’re coming down 95 you see the church you say, I’m almost home,” Brian Costello added.
Three generations of Catherine Coyle’s family learned and loved at St Leo’s.READ MORE: 6 Day Workweeks And Poked By Needles: YaFavTrashman Fighting For Philadelphia Sanitation Workers' Safety
“I just felt like a part of my life was taken away from me last night when I heard about it,” Coyle said. “So much of my life went through this church and school it was just overwhelming.”
A sign on a nearby bridge reads “Saint Leo’s was once the heart of Tacony.”
But the Archdiocese of Philadelphia closed it for daily mass in 2019. They tell Eyewitness News the building was vacant at the time the fire sparked. However, fire crews had to evacuate surrounding buildings as the fire spread.
“It meant a lot to a lot of people,” former parishioner Ann Marie Kuvik said. “There’s a lot of tears here today and I’m sure there will be more.”
There’s a lot of concern the stone steeple and facade could collapse, so surrounding streets have been blocked off.
L&I tells CBS3 the church had to be leveled to an appropriate height in order for investigators to safely assess the damage and investigate the fire.
There is a time capsule inside the church from 1984 put there on the 100th anniversary of the building and Councilman Bobby Henon has sworn to make sure that it is recovered intact.
“I know the community is resilient, they are coming together,” Henon said. “And church and places of worship are important. It’s in our faith to come together and I know they’re doing that right now.”
The church was sold about a month ago and the new owners did not want to comment on the fire, but say they want to speak with the community about what to do next.
The good news is no one was injured in the fire.
The cause of the fire has not been determined at this time.MORE NEWS: Police: 2 Teens In Car Shot At Red Light In Philadelphia's Olney Neighborhood
CBS3’s Howard Monroe and Dan Koob contributed to this report.