Wakefield police asked pedestrians and vehicular traffic to avoid the downtown area surrounding the 150-year-old First Baptist Church, located on Lafayette Street, while firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze.
The cause of the fire has been said to be a bolt of lightning which struck the building. There was a bit of smoke before fire eventually engulfed the building, according to a witness.
Photos and videos from the scene showed heavy smoke and flames emanating from the traditional white church and steeple. As the orange flames climbed the steeple, the ribs of the structure became visible.
“I just think of my fellow teachers, whose life’s work has been in that building with the kids from this community and the communities all around,” said Amy Burd, who teaches at the nursery school that operated from the church basement. “We’re all devastated.”
“While we lost our historic building from a lightning strike this week, we praise Jesus that our church community was kept safe,” the congregation wrote in a statement after the fire. “A very big thank you to the many firefighters who did their jobs with excellence, and to the outpouring of support from the community.”
The fire was so huge that some witness said they could see the smoke and flame from neighboring town.