Fire destroyed a church in central Vermont Wednesday, creating plumes of smoke that were visible from Interstate 89.
The fire in Middlesex is still under investigation, but as of mid-afternoon Wednesday, authorities were unaware of any injuries.
“We loved looking at it across the street from our house,” said Doug Lombard, describing the Middlesex United Methodist Church as a “small-town country church.”
Lombard shared with NECN a short clip of video he took with his phone, showing flames tearing through the structure.
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“We could feel the heat inside the house standing in front of the window,” Lombard recalled.
The heat even melted the siding of a property next door.
The church had stood for more than a century, according to longtime residents of the community who stopped by Church Street, the scene of the fire, on Wednesday.
“It was a fight that was not going to turn out well,” said Chief Gary Dillon of the Waterbury Fire Department.
The age of the church was just one challenge facing firefighters who raced to Middlesex from neighboring communities, bringing in their own water.
“It’s very dry, very seasoned wood,” Dillon said of the materials in the more-than-a-century-old church. “There’s no sprinkler system. Middlesex doesn’t have a water system so there’s no hydrants here so, initially, we didn’t have the amount of water we needed because we had a tremendous amount of fire in the building.”
Residents of Church Street said the church had a small and aging congregation, but was still serving the community. It operated a food shelf on weekends, according to a neighbor.
Firefighters were able to save a stained glass window, a wooden cross, a candlestick, religious artwork and other objects from the church building.
“For anybody that has a loss like that, we try to do some preservation,” said Deputy Chief Joe Aldsworth of the Barre City Fire Department. “I put myself in the shoes of the owner — the people that were in the community — and I say, ‘Okay, what do I need to grab just to preserve what’s left over?’ It might be nothing, or to somebody, it might mean something.”
Dillon said investigators are already beginning the job of trying to figure out the origin and cause of the fire that destroyed the historic church.