An intense four-alarm fire ripped through the rectory at a church in Lawrence Monday night. WBZ-TV's Nick Emmons reports.
LISA HUGHES: Tonight, firefighters race to save a historic church in Lawrence after the rectory there catches fire. The priest who is living in the rectory made it. Out safely Thanks for joining us tonight. I'm Lisa Hughes.
DAVID WADE: And I'm David Wade. Tonight parishioners are praising the firefighters who stopped those flames Nick Emmons is live in Lawrence tonight with more on this breaking story. Nick.
NICK EMMONS: Hey David. This is Holy Rosary Church here along Essex Street in Lawrence. And if I step out of the way, you can see here that fire crews are just now wrapping up after a really difficult firefight here, as you mentioned, in the rectory of this church. I'm told that the church was built in the 1870s.
And when firefighters arrived, the rectory was engulfed. The third floor of the rectory, just flames shooting out of the roof. So by the time they got here, their main focus was keeping the fire from spreading to this historic church.
JOE MARIANO: We try not to think the worst but, you know, you almost kind of expect it.
NICK EMMONS: Parishioners watching helplessly as frames inched closer to Holy Rosary Church. A church that means so much to so many people.
JOE MARIANO: I'm third generation in the parish and we were all married there. And my kids were just christened there so, there's a lot of memories.
RAYMOND DIFIORE: This church is very important to me. I was I was baptized in this church 78 years ago, married in the church. My children were baptized in this church. And my parents and my grandparents were married here.
NICK EMMONS: When firefighters arrived, they quickly went to work with the goal of keeping the fire contained to the rectory. At one point, the flames became too dangerous and crews were forced out.
BRIAN MORIARTY: Extremely stubborn. And the problem with it is, you can see that we're focused right now on the rectory's third floor. We were unable to get into the third floor because the stairs were burnt out. We finally let it burn through the roof, and we're hitting it with ladder pipes.
NICK EMMONS: The priest was the only person in the rectory and was able to make it out OK. As for the church, after a matter of hours, firefighters were successful in keeping the flames contained.
BRIAN MORIARTY: The church did have some smoke damage, but we have not had fire into the church.
NICK EMMONS: These parishioners thankful their church and its history were spared.
RAYMOND DIFIORE: Let me tell you, they've done a fantastic job. This could have very easily spread right into the church, and they stopped it.
NICK EMMONS: Someone was looking out for it.
JOE MARIANO: Absolutely. You know, we'll be saying a couple of extra prayers tonight. Definitely, definitely.
NICK EMMONS: So as of right now, we don't have any word on a possible cause. That is under investigation. And it appears that the rectory would be a total loss. I'm told that the priest is now staying with a parishioner. That's the latest. Live in Lawrence, I'm Nick Emmons, ABC News
LISA HUGHES: Nick, thank you.