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Mount St. Mary's Chapel Fire Causes Almost $1M in Damages

"They'll have to probably redo the whole bell tower on the side up in the top. They'll have to make sure that all the structure is sound again."

EMMITSBURGMD - Those at Mount Saint Mary's University are picking up the pieces after a fire tore through a historic chapel over the weekend.

The sound of crews examining the historic bell tower for damage and the sight of signs calling the chapel of the Immaculate Conception "unsafe" show the aftermath of Friday's fire at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.

Topher Darragh saw the fire and called public safety.

"We started seeing the flames as part of the file had been chipping away. The fire started coming out, and then the entire thing just went up in flames," said Darragh, a graduating senior at the Mount.

The blaze caused almost $1 million in damages. Mount President Thomas Powell credits the university's preparation for no one getting hurt.

"The students behaved wonderfully," Powell said. "We actually opened up the dining hall, and everybody had free drinks and ice cream as they watched this very dramatic fire."

Yellow tape surrounds the bottom of the chapel. Those with the Mount hope to have an idea of what exactly needs to be repaired here by the end of the week.

"They'll have to probably redo the whole bell tower on the side up in the top. They'll have to make sure that all the structure is sound again and that it'll be able to withstand any type of inclement weather," said Jacob Crider, associate director of operations for public safety at the Mount.

Those at the Mount say the bell tower's roof and the cross may also have to be replaced.

"Nobody wants a fire on campus, absolutely nobody does, but if you had to have a fire on campus, through the act of a lightning strike, there couldn't be a better place for lighting to strike because nobody was in any danger, and there were no injuries," Powell said.

Students say the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception has special meaning to the campus.

"Being that this is a Catholic university, that is a big part of our identity," Darragh said.

It's an identity students, alumni and staff hope to quickly regain.

Powell expects crews to deem the building structurally safe by the end of the week.

The state fire marshal's preliminary report says the fire was caused by lightning. The final report should be released in about two weeks. Mount's insurance is expected to cover all the damages.

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