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Fire Scorches New York Cathedral

Aired December 18, 2001 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Threatening a famous New York City landmark, a fire is out of control at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, on New York's Upper West Side -- considered the world's largest Gothic chapel.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is standing by. She joins us with more now.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, is seems that the flames are under control. It's a five-alarm fire. There are still many firefighters, many trucks here in the area. This is the world's largest Gothic cathedral. It's got about half a million visitors every year. It's located near Columbia University.

Inside the cathedral are many one-of-a-kind items. When this was first being built, in the late 1900s or early 20th century, many people from around the world began donating gifts. The emperor of Japan gave a vase; that's inside the cathedral. Also there's a stone from the cell in France where Joan of Arc was held the night before she was burned at the stake. So many one-of-a-kind, priceless items.

It is a beautiful cathedral, stained glass windows. At Christmastime, they put up a very large tree on the inside.

We don't know exactly what started this fire, but they do think that it began in a gift shop, in the middle to the back of the cathedral.

Again, this is one of New York's most famous cathedrals. It was built to rival St. Patrick's, which is in Midtown.

It appears that the flames are out. They are still aggressively tackling this fire. They don't want anything to flare up again. Right now, they're in the middle of it, and we are keeping an eye on it -- Paula.

ZAHN: Deborah, I don't want to confuse viewers. You say the flames are out, yet as we look at these pictures, the building is fully engulfed. These pictures were taken by WABC a little earlier on this morning.

Deborah, as you were speaking, I got notice that the fire department is confirming they believe the source of the fire was the gift shop. FEYERICK: The flames, from where I'm sitting -- I'm just about a block away from this fire -- there is no more smoke billowing. When the fire first began, it was very fast and very furious. Large amounts of smoke. It could be seen and smelled from a considerable distance away.

But right now all we are seeing is just a little smoke coming from the front door, and the firefighters now seem to be standing down a bit. And we're expecting to hear from the fire commissioner pretty soon.

ZAHN: When that happens, Deborah, can we come back to you live?

FEYERICK: Absolutely.

ZAHN: Deborah Feyerick, reporting for us on the scene of this fire.

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