THE BRONX - Thick flames tore through the second and third floors of an Ethiopian church Friday, destroying part of the building.

Aschalew Beyene, the pastor of Emmanuel Worship Center, said he got a call from fire officials early Friday morning informing him of the blaze. Beyene said his staff was in shock.

Members and staff of the church say losing part of the center is like losing their home. They say the 100 members of East Tremont Avenue church are a very close group.

The worship center largely escaped the flames, but the Deacon of the church said the Sunday school and social hall were burned. An office and kitchen were damaged as well.

According to people who were on the scene of the fire, there was a strong gasoline odor. Fire officials say the blaze was an accidental, electrical one.