COVINGTON, La. - Fire damage at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Covington is being estimated at $300,000.
The flames affected 25% of the building that stored the Abbey’s computer and phone system, while smoke remnants closed down the seminary college dormitory for the day.
The historic church at St. Joseph’s stood tall and untouched Wednesday morning, while the server room, which sits in the church’s shadows, sat in a crispy pile.
It’s evidence of a battle that began before 3 a.m. in that server room. It’s next door to the dormitory for 65 seminarians.
"Whenever I walked out of my room, I know it wasn't a fire drill because of the smell,” said Seminarian Cody Murphy, “And I knew right away it was an electrical fire just by the smell of the wires and plastic"
One of the reasons fire fighters say the fire wasn't any worse is because the building the server room is in stands alone. The two buildings on either side of it are only connected by a hallway, allowing the flames to stay inside the server room.
President-Rectory of the Seminary College, Fr. Gregory Boquet, said, "The biggest damage we have is smoke that might have migrated from the hall."
That limited affect on the dormitory allowed for seminarians, many left with just their pajamas on, some without even shoes, to return to their rooms and get their belongings. All were unharmed.
Something else that helped keep the rubble to a minimum was quick action by the fire department.
Boquet said, “The fire department was superb, they were very quick to respond and assisted us and very, very, a lot of compliments to the fire department we have here in St. Tammany Parish."
"Our response was great,” said St. Tammany Parish Fire District 12 Spokesman James Hartman, “The abbey's response was great and the fire was contained in one room so obviously this was a very fortunate outcome for a very tragic situation"
The seminary hopes to have the dorm open by Wednesday evening, and classes will resume Thursday. The Fire Marshal’s Office is still investigating the cause of the fire.