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World News

Massive fire destroys New Jersey church

by Reuters Journalist

A major fire burned a large church in Burlington, New Jersey to the ground on Monday, its roof collapsing as more than 100 firefighters and emergency personnel battled the flames, local media reported.

The blaze erupted at about 6 p.m. eastern time at the Fountain of Life Center in Florence Township, New Jersey, northeast of Philadelphia, local ABC-6 reported. Dark plumes of smoke could be seen for several miles around.

"It's a devastating loss," Russell Hodgins, a senior pastor at the Fountain of Life Center, told the station.

Hodgins told local media that crews were still attempting to save an attached school building. More than 100 firefighters and other emergency responders were at the scene.

"Firefighters did a tremendous job of trying to stop the fire interiorly. It was just the size of the building the amount of fire that was here - we had to switch our operation to a defensive operation," Robert Tharp, the administrator of the Florence Township Fire District, told CBS-6.

There were no immediate reports of injuries and it was not clear what ignited the blaze.

The Cherry Hill Courier Post said the church, which opened in 1974, has 1,000 members. Its campus includes a school, worship space and family life center, the newspaper said. A cause has not yet been determined, the newspaper said.

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