Morning Fire at Emmaus Soup Kitchen

“My heart is broken,” said Sister Mary Miller, Director of Emmaus Ministries, upon reaching Emmaus Soup Kitchen to find flames and smoke pouring from the rooftop and front of the building. “Who will feed our guests today?”

A fire was reported at the site around 8:30 a.m. Friday morning. It was brought under control in 45 minutes as a result of the quick-acting efforts of the Erie Fire Department.

Sister Lucia Marie Surmik, who resides with two other sisters on the second floor of the building, discovered the smoke and flames when she went downstairs to do laundry. She quickly alerted Sister Claire Marie Surmik, her sister, and both of them were able to get out of the building safely. “Lucia saved my life,” said Sister Claire, whose upper floor bedroom became involved in the fire. The other resident, Sister Karen Kosin, had already left for work at Second Harvest Food Bank and was not home when the fire was discovered.

Sisters, friends, neighbors, staff and volunteers came to the site as the news traveled and tears of sadness and disbelief flowed freely. “While this is most certainly a devastating moment for us,” said Sister Anne Wambach, prioress, “we are very grateful that all of the sisters are safe. We are likewise grateful that staff members, who had not yet arrived for their day’s work, were saved as well.”

The soup kitchen was founded in 1974. It serves 250 dinners Monday through Friday as well as lunch on Saturday. While the extent of the damage is unknown at this time, it is believed that the building will not be a complete loss. “We’re going to miss several beats, but the heart of Emmaus is still beating,” said Sister Mary. “I am already overwhelmed by the kindnesses that are being extended to us and our guests. The hundreds of meals that we serve through the week are so needed.”

At the present time, the fire is under investigation. There are reports that it started as a result of something being placed outside the southeast corner of the building. Reports about the fire and the investigation can be accessed through local news outlets.

*NEW: Sister Mary Miller, Director of Emmaus Ministries, speaks about this morning's fire at Emmaus. Click here to listen.