The 2018 Fire
At about 7:00pm on evening of Tuesday, October 23, 2018, a line of strong thunderstorms passed through the area and the 180 foot high steeple of the church was struck by lightning. Although firefighters responded immediately, the fire spread quickly through the 150 year old wooden structure. The 7 alarm fire brought more than 100 firefighters from seventeen neighboring communities with more than twenty trucks. Although a group was meeting in the building at the time, everyone safely left the church and there were no civilian deaths or injuries nor serious injuries to firefighters. Although the huge firefighting response was unable to save the church, all the neighboring buildings, including Town Hall and Artichokes Italian restaurant in the old YMCA building, were spared any damage. Hundreds of onlookers filled the Square to watch the fire in disbelief.
The church building was almost completely destroyed by the fire, except for the lower half of the steeple, the exterior walls of the sanctuary, and the attached school building, home of the Tall Spire preschool, to the rear. On Wednesday, October 24, 2018, crews dismantled the remains of the steeple, and demolished the walls and chimney of the building.
The entire community mourned the loss of such an iconic historic building in the town's skyline and downtown, along with the congregation of the church. Support came from all over the community, including the town's other churches, which offered space for the First Baptist Church congregation to meet, worship, and hold preschool while they make plans for the future. A donation fund to assist the church was set up at www.fbcwakefield.org.
The fire was covered widely in local media, with several Boston news trucks staying on the scene through the demolition, and there was front page coverage in the Wakefield Daily Item as well as the Boston Globe on Wednesday and Thursday of that week.