A huge fire ripped through a historic 280-year-old church in Massachusetts and sent its spiral crashing down.
The blaze at First Congregational Church of Spencer began at around 3pm on Friday and witnesses say it was caused by a lightning strike.
Spencer Fire Department responded immediately and battled the flame for hours as smoke poured from the building which was made entirely out of wood.
The fire spread rapidly and the church spire was completely engulfed in flames before it came tumbling down.
No one was injured as the building was empty at the time and the community watched on in shock as the historic church crumbled.
New video captures the moment the steeple of a centuries-old church in Spencer came tumbling down Friday.
📸: Jonathan Kelley
— Boston 25 News (@boston25) June 2, 2023
Dramatic photos show smoke billowing from the building as it burned and this could be seen from surrounding towns.
The Spencer Police Department urged the public to stay away from the area and fire fighters from neighboring areas were called in to help tackle the blaze.
They managed to tackle the heaviest flames by 5pm as they climbed on tower ladders to douse the church in water from above.
And hundreds of shocked residents watched from different corners as the fire engulfed the building.
Rev. Dr. Bruce MacLeod, who has been leading the church since February, watched as it burned from across the street.
‘For a lot of folks its a death in the family, for folks who have gone through life milestones here from baptisms to weddings to funerals, it’s devastating,’ he told local television station WHDH.
Investigators believe a lightning strike could have started the fire as a storm passed over Spencer at around 2.30pm.
Krystal Sanchez lives nearby and said she saw lighting hit the spire before the fire started.
‘I was just sitting in my house and I heard the ambulance come. I really didn’t think anything of it but when I came outside there was just smoke and fire everywhere,’ she told NBC 10 Boston.
‘The top of the building just came crashing down. It was terrible. There were people crying, it was really, really bad.
‘It was terrible. There was people crying, it was just an awful scene.’
Robert St. Germain also witnessed the fire and said: ‘It’s sad. It’s a part of the town. What can you do? We’re all sad. We’re all grieving about this.’
Southbridge Fire Chief Paul Normandin said: ‘We had an eyewitness report of a lightning strike in the area, so we’re kind of assuming at this point that it’s probably what happened.’
A collapse zone was put up around the church as fire fighters waited for an excavation team to arrive and tear down what was left of the building’s front walls.
‘It is concerning,’ Normandin said. ‘That’s why we’re not in front of it.’
The church was first established in 1743 and it is not the first time it has been devastated by a fire.
A blaze ripped through the congregation in 1862 before it was completely rebuilt a year later.
A lone chimney with a beam across it remained and it resembled a cross.
Some of the walls of the First Congregational Church were still intact following the fire which gave the community hope it can be rebuilt again.
The church has a small congregation of around 30 people and pastor MacLeod does not know for certain if the building can be repaired.