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Video captures historic church go up in flames, spire tumble after lightning strike

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Dramatic video captured flames destroying a historic Massachusetts church — including its iconic steeple as it came crashing down — after the house of worship was struck by lightning Friday.

The fiery footage shows fierce orange flames and thick black smoke consume the First Congregational Church in Spencer, Mass., about 50 miles outside of Boston, starting around 3 p.m.

Onlookers can be heard on the video screaming as the 1863 Protestant church’s spire tumbles, spewing more fire and smoke into the air.

The church was built in the 19th century, after fire previously destroyed the site’s former house of worship, which had been there since 1772, the Boston Globe reported.

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The historic church burned from its steeple to its ground floor.
Spencer Police Department

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Flames broke out when the church was struck by lightning.
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The 1863 church’s iconic spire collapsed as onlookers screamed.
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Flames first burst out of the sides of the church’s steeple before quickly spreading throughout the structure.

No one was inside the church at the time, and there were no injuries, authorities said.

“As [firefighters] were advancing into the church itself, there was a fire in the attic and in the steeple itself,” Spencer Fire Chief Paul Normandin told WCVB.

Normandin said the steeple collapsed approximately 45 minutes after firefighters began battling the blaze.


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The fire took out cellphone signals in the area, since the church’s spire acted as a cellphone tower.
Spencer Police Department

The fire also knocked out cellphone signals in the area, since the steeple of the church acted as a cellphone tower, according to Normandin.

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The Rev. Bruce MacLeod, the church’s interim pastor, said the building was constructed with wood and other older more-fire-prone materials, which could be why it burned to the ground so quickly.

He added that it’s too early to say whether the church, whose congregation is around 30 people, can be rebuilt.

“As is true in many New England communities, the Congregational Church was one of the first important buildings erected in the Town and served in both a religious and civic capacity,” Mary Baker-Wood, chair of the Spencer Historical Commission, told the Globe.


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The church caught fire around 3 p.m. Friday.
Spencer Police Department

“The iconic white spire on the hill has been a beacon to generations who pass by it on Main Street.

“Many of Spencer’s most prominent families have belonged to the church, and most long-time residents have attended countless baptisms, weddings, funerals, and public events there,” Baker-Wood said.

Services were scheduled to be held at the church at 10 a.m. Sunday. Members of the congregation were invited to gather at the First Congregational Church of Leicester at the same time instead.

With Post wires

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