In a devastating incident on a Saturday afternoon, the main building of the Ukrainian Catholic Church Seminary, located on Goldbook Road in Stanford, was engulfed in flames, resulting in extensive damage to the historic structure. The fire, which started from Workmans blow torches being used to remove paint from the wooden trim on the outside of the building, quickly spread through the third-floor dormitory area, causing heavy damage and putting the lives of 66 students at risk, 30 of whom were residing on the premises at the time of the incident.
At 3:31 PM, Box #313 rang for the Ukrainian Church Seminary, Truck 1 arrived at the scene with Engine 1 soon after. However, the firefighters were faced with the challenge of not knowing the exact location of the fire initially, delaying the charging of the hose line.
According to Fire Chief Victor Veit, the use of blow torches led to the ignition of the blaze. The individual responsible for the blow torch attempted to extinguish the fire before the arrival of the firefighters, but the flames had already gained significant momentum. The situation quickly escalated, prompting a second alarm, which brought all local fire operators and department members on the off platoon to the scene.
Firefighters were met with thick smoke pouring from many of the windows upon their arrival. The students, in an effort to safeguard themselves from the smoke, used wet handkerchiefs over their faces. Some of them valiantly tried to rescue their belongings, including clothing and books, but unfortunately, many lost their prized possessions to the flames.
During the three-hour battle, firefighters fought to save the 56-year-old structure, which was renowned for its match stone construction and exquisite hand-carved woodwork and trim. The building’s interior, a testament to the craftsmanship of its time, suffered considerable damage due to smoke and water.
Tragically, Fireman Edward Gleason from Company 3 was overcome by smoke and collapsed while combating the fire on the third floor. His fellow firefighters managed to bring him out of the building and rushed him to Stanford Hospital. Gleason had inhaled a significant amount of smoke, leading to his collapse. Moreover, during the rescue operation, a section of the slate roof collapsed, narrowly avoiding onlookers who were observing the fire from a safe distance. He was later released.
The fire finally came under control after three hours of relentless effort by the firefighters. They had to lay an extensive 5,200 feet of hose to combat the raging flames.
The Ukrainian Church Seminary, established in Stanford in 1933 and the only one of its kind in the country, held great historical significance in the community. Its impressive library, housing books donated by distinguished priests, also suffered severe damage from the smoke and water.
The estimated cost of the damage caused by the fire amounts to $40,000, but the loss of invaluable historical artifacts and cherished memories cannot be quantified.
The entire community was left in mourning over the devastation of this iconic landmark, and the heartfelt efforts of the firefighters and students in their battle against the flames were commendable.