FDNY: candles likely caused historic church fire

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the cause of a fire that destroyed a historic Serbian Orthodox church in Manhattan on Easter was likely caused by the mishandling of candles.

"We will be back in Monday to dig down and see where that fire started but early indications are that it was improper handling of candles," said Nigro.

Reports of worldwide fires of Serbian churches on that same day do not appear to be related.

"There were fires in Sydney and Melbourne. One was determined to be candles and the other is thought to be candles," said Nigro.

The Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava burned Sunday, May 1, the same day Orthodox Christians around the world celebrated Easter.

In speaking with the church's caretakers, the FDNY said they may have accidentally placed candles that had not been fully extinguished in a cardboard box after the Easter celebration.

The investigation is ongoing.

The church was designed by architect Richard M. Upjohn and was built in the early 1850s.

One of its earlier congregants was novelist Edith Wharton, who wrote "The Age of Innocence." She was married in the church in 1885.