LAWRENCE, MASS. (WHDH) - Fire officials are investigating a four-alarm fire that tore through the rectory at Holy Rosary Church in Lawrence on Monday night.

Firefighters responding to a reported fire on Essex Street around 7 p.m. found large flames shooting out of the roof of the three-story rectory and a plume of black smoke pouring into the air.

Crews could be seen using ladder trucks to knock down the blaze that raged on for hours.

“Extremely stubborn and the problem was as you can see the focus now on the rectory’s third floor,” Lawrence Fire Chief Brian Moriarty said. “We were unable to get into the third floor because stairs were burnt out.”

Multiple agencies responded to help contain the fire and prevent it from spreading to the church that has stood for over a century.

Parishioners told 7NEWS Father Francis Mawn made it out of the building safely.

“I hope, and the fire department looks like it did a good job, that it didn’t go through to the church,” parish council member Raymond DiFiore said. “We can probably repair the backside of the rectory if that’s the case as long as it didn’t get into the church.”

“Hopefully, they can save the church, 30 years of memories just for me, my husband a lifetime, my sisters-in-law, everybody all the relatives it’s devastating,” parishioner Carol Tomaselli said.

Fire officials said the church is OK but the rectory sustained significant damage.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

This is a developing news story; stay with 7NEWS on-air and online for the latest details.

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