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Fire at Landmarked Flatiron Church Is Out, But Origin Remains Unclear

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The 1851 landmark has been gutted by a fire whose origin has yet to be identified

On Sunday night around 6:50 p.m., a fire broke out the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava on West 26th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues. The fire grew into a four-alarm blaze that virtually gutted the building—a New York City landmark and active place of worship. No one was injured during the fire, and officials have yet to determine just what caused it. Here's what else we know so far.

About 170 firefighters were on the scene at the fire's peak around 10 p.m., Gothamist reports. Firefighters were only able to go inside the building for a short period of time, but even after the blaze, what of the church remains has been deemed structurally sound and not in danger of collapsing.

Prior to the blaze, the church had one of the city's largest timber hammerbeam roofs. The open truss style was popularized in English Gothic architecture. What remains of the roof of St. Sava is barely holding on. A member of the church, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Gothamist that the church is insured, but fears that the insurance company may not be solvent enough to cover the damages sustained.

The FDNY has yet to identify the fire's point of origin. A spokesman for the fire department noted that the fire "is not believed to be, nor has it been labeled as, suspicious."

In 2014, The Real Deal reported that luxury developer Madison Equities sued St. Sava for allegedly "breaching a letter of intent between the two parties and acting in a 'deceitful and unconscionable' way by not disclosing a $13.5 million broker fee." Madison Equities accused the church of hiring a brokerage firm to negotiate on its behalf without notifying Madison Equities, which sought to purchase about 200,000 square feet of air rights from the church in order to construct a nearby commercial building.

Madison Equities alleged that St. Sava only disclosed the brokerage firm's involvement after asking Madison to foot the $13.5 million bill for the firm's services. Madison's letter of intent with St. Sava agreed on a fee of $250,000 for the air rights, and the lawsuit said that the fee rendered the transaction "unfinanceable."