Fire Destroys Historic Massachusetts Church

October 24, 2018 Updated: October 24, 2018

A nearly 150-year-old church in Wakefield, Massachusetts, caught fire and burned to the ground on the night of Tuesday, Oct. 23.

The First Baptist Church of Wakefield had dominated the skyline of this town of 25,000 with its 180-foot-tall steeple since 1873. There has been a building housing the church congregation on the site continuously since the year 1800. Wakefield is about 12 miles north of Boston.

The church was reported to be in flames around 7:30 p.m., shortly after a lightning storm passed over the town, according to WFXT-25.

According to Wakefield Fire Chief Michael Sullivan, there was a community class going on in the church building when the fire broke out. Everyone was evacuated safely.    

More than one local resident saw lightning strike the steeple.

““Me and my wife were in the house and we heard the huge loud bang and we saw the lightning strike the building,” Christian Bruno told WFXT.

It struck the tower, and it just—saw the smoke and it came right up in flames, I mean, it was fast, bang. It was just unbelievable.

“So I ran off my back deck and I could see the church was struck by lightning,” Noreen Evangelista told CBS News.

“All of a sudden it was engulfed in flames and we watched it burn and burn and burn and we heard the shingles cracking and all of a sudden it just exploded out.”

CBS News reported that the people could feel the heat from the fire a few blocks away. 

Fast, Fierce Blaze

The fire spread quickly. What started as a three-alarm blaze grew within two hours into a seven-alarm inferno.

The 180-foot steeple, and landmark visible throughout the town, collapsed around 8 p.m.

According to WFXT, by the time the fire department arrived, the fire was already too far advanced for the church to be saved—even though the fire station is less than a mile away.   

A Beloved Landmark

The church was completely gutted by the fire—as were many of the town’s residents.

“I grew up in this town. I’ve been here 25 years, It’s unbelievable. This is like, you know, it’s a landmark here for me,” Christian Bruno told WFXT.

“This church has been here forever, they say, and I love this church, I love it. They just had the roof redone, it’s a beautiful church,” said another Wakefield resident, Matt French.

The church was built in 1873
The church’s 180-foot-tall steeple had dominated Wakefield’s skyline for almost 150 years. (Support the First Baptist Church/GoFundMe)

“It’s sad; there are people on the block crying.”

“Wakefield bounces back from a lot of stuff like this so I know they will rebuild and they will go on from there,” French added.

The church has already started a GoFundMe page to finance the rebuilding.

People are urged to donate via GoFundMe or to send checks to The First Baptist Church of Wakefield, 8 Lafayette St., Wakefield, Massachusetts, 01880.