Fire investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that damaged a historic church in Thompson Thursday night.
Officials said crews responded to a heavy fire at the Thompson Congregational Church located at 347 Thompson Road around 10 p.m. Five companies from Thompson and eight other surrounding departments all responded to the blaze, which was brought under control around 1:30 a.m.
The biggest challenge for firefighters was accessing enough water. There are no fire hydrants in the area, so they were draining nearby ponds.
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“As small departments out here, we have small tanks. So when a truck shows up with a 1,000 gallons or 1,500 gallons of water we eat it up. We can drain it in one minute,” said Lt. Paul Feige with the Thompson Hill Fire Company.
There is significant damage to the back of the church. The roof collapsed in the back of the sanctuary onto the pews, as well as water damage and smoke damage extending up through the steeple. Four of the classrooms in the adjoining building were also damaged.
The church was organized in 1730 and built in 1856. Seeing the damage is devastating for members.
“It’s iconic. It’s part of Thompson. You come up the street and you looked for the steeple. It was coming home,” said Judy Eichner of Thompson.
Judy Eichner is one of the members with generations of memories. She was remarried in the church, both of her children married there and her granddaughter was baptized there.
She remembers when the previous steeple burned down in 1987 and tells us it took the church a number of years to raise enough money to rebuild. She said she hopes they can do it again.
“It’s very sad that it had another fire. And I’m sure it will recover. It’s a fantastic community that will pull together,” said Eichner.
One firefighter was taken to the hospital for evaluation after reporting shortness of breath, but no injuries were reported.
The state fire marshal has determined the fire was caused by an electrical issue in the basement and deemed the fire accidental.