PEMBROKE, Maine — A fire Monday morning leveled a historic place of worship in this small Washington County town.
The fire was first reported at First Baptist Church on Liberty Hill Road at 11:47 a.m., according to Josh Rolfe at the Washington County Regional Communications Center. The center dispatched volunteer firefighters from Pembroke, Dennysville, Perry, Pleasant Point and Charlotte.
On Facebook, Pembroke residents posted photos of the fire. Multiple photos show flames shooting up into the air higher than the treeline, illuminating all that was left of the church: its skeletal, wooden frame. Black smoke is seen billowing high into the sky.
Area residents used the social networking website to share memories of the church and mourn its loss.
Liberty Hill Road was still closed to traffic around 4 p.m., as firefighters from Pembroke continued to run water to the site, said Pembroke Town Clerk Janice Scanlon.
No firefighters were available for comment, but Scanlon said no one was hurt in the fire. The church, built in 1865, was destroyed by the blaze, Scanlon said.
“It’s completely gone,” said Scanlon, who lives not far from the church. “All you can see is smoke.”
Pastor Gary Kinney has led the congregation at First Baptist Church for 27 years. He said he arrived at the church around 9 a.m. Monday and left around 10 a.m. By noon, the church was engulfed in flames, Kinney said.
“It’s a sad day,” he said Monday evening. “The whole building is just flat. It went up in just a couple hours.”
Kinney said no one was hurt in the fire, and that firefighters believe the blaze was caused by old wiring. The church was home to a congregation of about 35 believers, he said, and was insured.
The pastor said he hopes the church will be rebuilt, but the congregation will need to do some soul-searching before any decision is made.
“It’s a little country church and it’s been here for years,” he said. “We’re hoping to rebuild, but that’s up to the heart of the people.”
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.