‘Within 30 minutes, the building was gone’: Cleanup continues after fire destroys Spencer church

SPENCER, Mass — All that remains of a 280-year-old church in Spencer is a big pile of rubble.

The First Congregational Church on Main St. caught fire around 2:30 p.m. Friday. Investigators believe lightning struck the steeple, sparking the fire.

Spencer Fire Chief Robert Parsons told Boston 25 News firefighters were responding to a different call for a lightning strike in another part of town when they got a call for the fire alarm going off at the church.

Parsons said the off-duty firefighters responded to the church.

“When they got to the church, all they saw was a small puff of smoke coming out of the steeple,” Parsons said. “Within 30 minutes, the building was gone. It burned very fast.”

Crews spent hours battling the flames. At the end of the day, all that remained was the front façade of the building.

Parsons said the façade was a hazard and needed to be knocked down. Excavators were brought in, and crews worked from 11 p.m. Friday until about 4 a.m. Saturday taking it down.

Parsons said the senior living facility next door had to be evacuated after the roof caught fire, but residents were allowed to return Saturday morning.

The church was built in 1743 and has stood on Main St. for 280 years.

The original church was destroyed in a fire in and rebuilt in 1862.

Parsons said it will likely take many days to clear away the debris, which will have to be handled with care as he suspects there is asbestos in it.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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