Historic Wakefield church ‘total loss’ following massive, multi-alarm blaze

WAKEFIELD, MASS. (WHDH) - A church in Wakefield that brought nearly 150 years of ministry and history is a complete loss after a massive, multi-alarm blaze broke out Tuesday night.

The fire at First Baptist Church on Lafayette Street was first reported around 7 p.m. by a witness who reported seeing a lightning strike hit the steeple, according to a Wakefield fire official.

Video from the scene showed heavy flames and smoke pouring out of the top of the church.

Wakefield Fire Chief Michael Sullivan said that crews from more than two dozen area communities and more than 100 firefighters helped battle the blaze.

Flames roared for about three hours as crews dumped several million gallons of water onto the church.

“It’s a total loss,” Sullivan said of the church. “I’m extremely proud of the more than two dozen communities that pulled together.”

Sullivan said a group was inside the church when the fire started and all made it out safely.

Three firefighters suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were treated on the scene, Sullivan added.

Parishioners mourned the loss of their beloved church, which had become a landmark in the community.

“Just two days ago, I was sitting in the pew and now there’s nothing left of it,” one churchgoer said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Interim Pastor Norman Bendroth, who just began preaching from the pulpit on July 1, was among those shocked at the scale of the destruction.

He said, “We’re going to have to do a lot of grieving, mourning and celebrating the life of this church.”

The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation; however, Sullivan believes that a lightning strike likely ignited the blaze.

Eight condo units, a restaurant, and a church shed also sustained heat damage.

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