According to Massachusetts State Police, the First Congregational Church of Spencer caught fire Friday afternoon and forced nearby individuals to evacuate due to a roof fall.
The first photos from the scene showed smoke and flames coming from the tall steeple structure at the front of the First Congregational United Church on Main Street.
The fire spread across the 160-year-old church, which was ravaged by the flames.
Nearly two hours after the first fire call came in to first responders, the entire roof of the structure was destroyed by the flames.
The steeple collapsed at the height of the blaze.
When firefighters went inside, they discovered smoke inside that steeple. The fire spread quickly from there, growing in intensity.
“As they were advancing into the church itself, there was fire in the attic and in the steeple itself,” the Southbridge Fire Chief said.
According to state police, Route 9 is still closed in both directions “for the foreseeable future” as of 6:43 p.m. on Friday. Due to the town’s high school graduation taking place on Friday night, traffic was made much more difficult.
The pastor believes may have been caused by a lightning strike.
Local emergency management has not said if there were any injuries, but firefighters reported having to deal with extreme heat during the blaze.
Air temperatures at nearby Worcester Regional Airport climbed to nearly 90 degrees during the afternoon, triggering concerns of heat exhaustion for first responders.
The FOX Weather Radar detected a storm with plenty of lightning moving through the heart of town about 2 p.m. EDT.
Meteorologists at the National Weather Service Office in Norton, Massachusetts, said they were not surprised to hear that lightning had possibly struck the structure and said other cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were likely during the stormy pattern.