Residents of Lower Broughton feared the worst this morning as a huge demolition crane was brought to the front of The Church of the Ascension, which was almost destroyed by fire on Sunday night (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
Throughout the day meetings were held between fire and building officers to determine the safest way to proceed, with the three unsupported gable ends deemed unsafe.
For the time being, two of the gable ends are to be left intact as they pose no immediate danger to fire crews or the public. But the main front end gable is to be half demolished by hand, as it was decided that the demolition crane would cause too much damage. This afternoon the cross at the front of the building was saved and church and insurance assessors met to decide the Ascension's ultimate fate.
"The plan is to remove the brickwork until half way down the circular window to reduce the weight of gable end as the columns underneath are damaged; that's to make it safe" Matt Brady, Station Manager at Broughton and Agecroft told the Salford Star.
"We're not as concerned about the other unsupported gables" he added "If one came down it would be within the confines of the church, so from a safety perspective it's not as big a concern. The smaller one is less likely to be affected by the wind. We need to make it safe enough to get in and make assessments."
Indeed, the fire service has not determined the cause of the fire yet, until an investigation team can get into the building. However, Greater Manchester Police has issued a statement implying strongly that the cause was arson...
"The reckless actions of the person, or people, responsible have caused a great deal of stress and anxiety to many and it is fortunate that no one was injured" said GMP's Detective Sergeant Karl Dalton, after CCTV footage was released showing someone appearing to run away from the direction of the church around the time the fire started.
Meanwhile, local resident Jamie Wise has started a JustGiving appeal to raise £100,000 "to help save and restore" the church...
"On Sunday the 12th February, a devastating fire ripped through The Church of Ascension and the heart of the Lower Broughton Community" the page states "Built in 1869 this Grade II listed building survived two World Wars, it was destroyed in less than an hour by what police believe was an arson attack.
"Investigators and structural engineers are hopeful the building can be saved" it adds "We as a community are calling out to everyone to please donate any amount possible so we can save this beautiful building and get it back to how it was. This building means so much to the people of Lower Broughton and we are truly shocked by what has happened."
In little under a day the appeal has already raised almost £1,000...
To donate see the JustGiving page - click here