Firefighters from throughout Burlington County, assisted by mutual aid from several neighboring counties, battled a multi-alarm inferno that destroyed a large church in Florence Township. It was about 1805 when firefighters were dispatched to the Fountain of Life Center Church in response to multiple smoke and heat detector activations reported by the building’s fire alarm monitoring company and 911 calls. Finding smoke pushing out from all sides of the octagonal-shaped 70,000-square-foot church, the first arriving chief immediately called for a third alarm. First arriving companies supplied the building’s FDC and stretched lines inside but the thick smoke and the building’s layout hampered efforts to locate the fire. Interior conditions rapidly deteriorated and all personnel were evacuated. Defensive operations were implemented, with the focus being on keeping the blaze from spreading into the Life Center Academy, a large K-to-12 school attached to the church. Eight alarms were eventually struck, with numerous other units special called from Camden, Atlantic, Ocean, Mercer and Bucks (PA) counties. Multiple tanker/tender task forces were called to shuttle water to the scene. Burlington County officials later said it was the county’s largest fire since the 11-alarm blaze at the Dietz and Watson plant in Delanco in 2013. While the church was a total loss, the school was saved thanks to firefighters trench-cutting the roof of the connecting wing and deploying multiple master streams.
– Fire News photos by Michael Ratcliffe