A massive fire ripped through the 249-year-old San Gabriel Mission early Saturday, destroying the roof of the church and much of its interior, authorities said.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Capt. Antonio Negrete, public information officer for the San Gabriel Fire Department.

Authorities received a call at 4:24 a.m. reporting that the mission’s fire alarm had been triggered, Negrete said. When an engine arrived to investigate, firefighters saw flames and smoke coming from the corner of the mission.

More units arrived on scene, and firefighters mounted an aggressive attack, fighting the flames from inside the church building. But after about 15 minutes, portions of the structure started to fall on them and they made the decision to exit and move to a defensive attack, battling the fire from outside, Negrete said.

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