Small fire at seminary where pope is staying; no one hurt

20150927-St-Charles-Borremeo-Seminary
A small fire broke out in an elevator shaft in the kitchen at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, where Pope Francis stayed Saturday night.

After extensive security precautions on the first day of a papal visit that unfolded without a hitch, there was a problem after Pope Francis arrived at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on Saturday night.

A small fire broke out in an elevator shaft in the kitchen of the Wynnewood seminary around 10:47 p.m., officials said.

Francis, who was staying there for the night, was not hurt, they said. Nor was anyone else. Nor was there any significant damage.

Foul play was not suspected, they said.

Nicole Mainor, of the official information center set up for the visit, said early Sunday morning that emergency personnel were notified and firefighters from Lower Merion put the fire out by 11:03 p.m.

It was not clear how close the kitchen was to the dormitory area of the seminary in which the pope was staying. He was to spend the night in one of 45 newly renovated rooms.

Manior said the fire appeared to have been a small one. The cause was unclear, she said, although it was not thought to be arson.

"It sounds like it was something very quick, cut and dried," she said.

A security staffer at the seminary who answered the phone late Saturday night said, "It's just equipment malfunction - no fire."

As a precaution, fire trucks had been stationed at the seminary before the pope's arrival, local firefighters said.

Kenneth Gavin, the spokesman for the Philadelphia archdiocese, said Sunday morning that the seminary did not have to be evacuated and the problem appeared to start with wiring in the kitchen elevated.  "The Holy Father was not in danger," Gavin said he was not certain whether Pope Francis even knew of the fire.

The spokesman for responders in Lower Merion also did not return calls.

The fire came on the day the seminary welcomed the pope with joy and majesty, showering him with cheers and calls of "Papa," as he greeted seminarians and church leaders in mid-afternoon.

The archdiocese had painstakingly prepared for the pope's two-day stay in one of its renovated dormitory rooms. In advance of his stay, the seminary gathered donations of more than $250,000 worth of bedding, curtains and other home décor items, including new tables and chairs.

cmccoy@phillynews.com

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