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Fire at Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

Kathryn Franke
MSM Class of 2013

(7/20) The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, located on the campus of Mount St. Mary’s University, is closed until further notice due to a fire that occurred in the chapel’s bell tower on Friday, July 19. The bell tower was struck by lightning shortly after 8 p.m. that evening.

Photo by Natalie Johnson

Photo by John Zuke

A Mount student witnessed the actual strike that hit the chapel and quickly notified the Mount Office of Public Safety. After inspecting the scene, the Public Safety officers called Frederick County 911 to report that smoke was coming from the tower.

As time went on, the smoke became thicker and the roof of the tower burst into flames. The Emmitsburg Fire Station 6 and many firehouses from northern Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania responded to the 911 calls.

Dozens of fire trucks lined the campus, prepared to help take on the fire had it spread or gotten out of control. The firemen had to approach the fire from various angles around the chapel to contain it, but they had the fire under control by 10:40 p.m. that night.

The fire was contained within the bell tower and according to the Mount’s website, the damage is estimated to be approximately $600,000, but the main body of the chapel does not have much damage. Thankfully, the chapel was vacant at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported.

In response to this unfortunate incident, Mount St. Mary’s University President Thomas H. Powell said, “We thank the observant and quick-thinking student, the responsive officers here at the Mount, and the firehouses that sent crews from Emmitsburg, Northern Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania. The fireman risked their lives to save our beloved IC Chapel. We give our thanks to God that the fire was contained, but mostly we thank God no one was injured and our Mount students are safe.”

The IC Chapel has been a focal point of Mount St. Mary’s University since 1910 and was recently renovated in 2011. It is the heart of the campus and a special place for many members of the Mount community. Needless to say, the Mount community and the surrounding areas certainly came together to protect the historic chapel.

Perhaps most incredible is the fact that even after braving the elements, the cross that adorns the top of the bell tower still stands strong.

For more information, photos, and video footage of the fire and the damage to the bell tower, visit

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