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Masses will continue at St. Joseph Cathedral as fire cleanup continues

Cleaning and repairing St. Joseph Cathedral will be tedious task. The fire damage was minimal after a blaze broke out near a lighting fixture Friday morning.

“Just like any fire, any house fire, it’s the water damage and it’s the smoke damage that we have to worry about,” said George Richert, a spokesman for the Buffalo Catholic Diocese.

Masses this weekend will go on as planned, though they might have to be moved to the chapel, he said.

“We’re very fortunate that nobody was hurt,” he said. “We’re also fortunate this didn’t happen right before or during Holy Week. Last week was a very busy week here.”

Crews brought in large fans to help clear the lingering smoke. Damage was pegged at close to a quarter-million dollars.

Diocesan officials plan to air out the cathedral for the next day or so.

They had considered bringing in some industrial equipment to absorb the odor, but by early Friday afternoon, the fans and open windows were working well in allowing the smoke to dissipate.

The fire at the Franklin Street cathedral was apparently ignited by a piece of wood left near a light fixture. The fire damaged a few pews and some potentially serious smoke damage was discovered in the ceiling.

The Buffalo Fire Department estimated $200,000 in damage to the contents and $30,000 to the structure.

Contractors have been working on the stained-glass windows one by one in the cathedral, Richert said.

Monsignor David S. Slubecky turned on the lights at 5:15 a.m., getting ready for the 7:30 Mass in the cathedral chapel, and the smoke alarm in the choir loft went off around 6:15 a.m., he said.

“Apparently some combustibles may have been left a little bit too close to the lights yesterday and when the lights were flicked on this morning it caused a small fire in the light which ran down to some of the pews,” Richert said.

The affected pews were roughly in the middle of the church on the left side, if facing the altar.

The Gothic Revival-style cathedral opened in 1862.