A fire that took 75 firefighters nearly 45 minutes to bring under control destroyed the parish center of a Harford County church Wednesday, causing an estimated $3.5 million in damage.
About 20 senior citizens were inside the Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church parish center on Joppa Farm Road in Joppatowne when the fire began about 11:05 a.m. They escaped uninjured.
According to Deputy State Fire Marshal Joseph G. Zurolo, firefighters were on the scene of what became a multi-alarm blaze within five minutes, and firefighters from Harford and Baltimore counties were dispatched.
The cause of the fire, which did not damage the church, is under investigation, Zurolo said.
The Rev. Joseph Simmons told some of the church's 570 members that Mass will be celebrated at the church on Sunday.
According to a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the parish was formed in 1963. Several area clergy, including Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, visited the scene after hearing about the fire.
Christopher Coffey, who became a member of the church a little more than a year ago, said that he was "stunned" to hear about the fire from a co-worker Tuesday afternoon.
Coffey, who lives in Abington and drives several miles each week for Mass rather than attend churches closer to his home, called the church "a very comfortable community, a very faithful community."
Another member, Carol Garrity, said that "the church is fine. We will carry on."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.