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FIRE DAMAGES LANDMARK SYNAGOGUE

A landmark Manhattan synagogue was extensively damaged Friday in a five-alarm fire that apparently started with a worker using a propane torch while renovating the structure, officials said.

Thick black and gray smoke began pouring from the roof of the Central Synagogue on Lexington Avenue at 55th Street at about 5 p.m. About 250 firefighters with 45 trucks were at the scene of the blaze, which burned for more than 2 1/2 hours. One firefighter suffered minor injuries.

The Moorish-style synagogue, a city and national landmark, was built between 1870 and 1872, making it the oldest building in continuous use as synagogue in the city.

Head Rabbi Peter Rubenstein said Torah scrolls had been taken from the historic temple before the renovation.

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