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Blaze guts North Miami church

A fire Wednesday evening raged through a North Miami church, virtually destroying it but injuring no one.

The Rev. James Noah, 49, pastor of the church, said neighbors told him they saw seven young teenagers climb onto the church’s roof between 4 and 4:30 p.m. to shoot fireworks, which might have sparked the blaze.

The fire gutted the interior of Eglise Evangelique Des Pelerins, at Northwest 12th Avenue and 119th Street, and partially collapsed its roof. No one was inside at the time.

It took 60 firefighters 90 minutes to put out the fire.

Responding to a call at 5:40 p.m., they found flames bursting through the roof. Firefighters entered the church but soon retreated when they determined that the structure was unstable. They then pumped water onto the church from ladder trucks.

As firefighters tried to put out the flames, Noah, pastor of the 150-member church, and neighbors watched as the fire consumed the structure.

Noah received a call about the fire while he was in Key Biscayne enjoying the Fourth of July with members of his congregation.

He could not estimate how much it might cost to rebuild the church. He said rebuilding would be a challenge — the church has no insurance or disaster funds.

“Everything’s down the drain,” said his 10-year old son, Nahum.

Eglise Evangelique Des Pelerins was weeks away from celebrating its 19th anniversary, on July 25, Noah said.

Neighbor Myrto Ulysse was in his backyard when he saw smoke in the air. The 19-year old said he ran out and saw the church ablaze. He feared the flames would spread.

“It looked like a tornado, full of black smoke,” Ulysse said. “You could feel the heat. You had to stand back.”

Enide Premilus has attended the church for the past 14 years. She called the fire “unbelievable.”

Jude Sylvain, 20, who said he attends the church from time to time, was uncertain about its future. He said he doubts it will rebuild.

Noah was more optimistic.

“It’s all in God’s hands now,” he said.

He asked members of the public who wish to help the church rebuild to call him at 305-300-7569.