Massachusetts Firefighters Praised in Historic Church Save

The steeple of a historic Medway church was destroyed Thursday morning after being struck by lightning as a band of severe thunderstorms moved through the area. The death of a man in his 30s on Cape Cod is also being blamed on the storms.

In Medway, firefighters battled a blaze at the Medway Community Church on Route 109 after the steeple was struck by lightning just after 8 a.m. Thursday.

"It was one of those loud, thunders with the simultaneous lightning that makes you jump out of your skin. And we could see the big black scar down the side of the steeple," one witness said.

The original steeple of the 1814 wooden church was destroyed in the hurricane of 1938 and replaced. On Thursday, the 70 year old steeple burned.

Even when the outside flames were knocked down, the fire raged on inside the steeple.

"It was a tough one to get at because of the height. It was right at the top of the steeple, at the high point of the steeple," Medway Fire Chief Paul Trufant said.

The fire damage is clearly seen inside the church. A large portion of the ceiling collapsed over the balcony, but otherwise the rest of the building was OK.

"It is a great place. A great church. A wonderful place. When I came around the corner I saw the piece standing up there and I said, 'We're in luck, God. We're in luck,'" the Rev. Ralph Geyer said.

"We are blessed. I mean, the number of churches that have burned to the ground and that we have most of our structure still standing. We are very thankful to the Lord for that," said Associate Pastor Carl Shultz said.

Schultz is hoping for some hot, dry weather to dry the building out so engineers can assess the structural damage.

"We have a contract to have lightning rod protection installed. It was going to be installed next month," said Dick Reynolds, from the church's building committee.

By evening, cleanup crews had descended upon the church, throwing out water-soaked carpet and pulling back parts of the water-damaged santuary ceiling and walls.

On Sunday, services will be held on the church front lawn and the firefighters who saved the historic 1914 building will be invited.

Several other buildings were struck by lightning as the storms tore through the area Thursday morning.

Lightning hit the attic of a home at 18 Daniel Shays Road in Hopkinton Thursday morning sparking a two-alarm fire.

Meetinghouse Hill Road, Sterling, Mass. In Sterling, the town Department of Public Works said it was experiencing townwide flooding but had not declared a state of emergency.

Overflowing rivers and streams poured into streets and basements. Rick Maypother of the Sterling Fire Department said firefighters and volunteers were pumping out basements all morning.

Meeting House Road, Redstone Hill Road and parts of Route 62 were under water. The town has been hard hit over the past year. It recently undertaken a massive cleanup from the winter's ice storms.

"I walked down stars because I heard water rushing and it was pouring through the window," resident Debbie Brown said. "We are going to have to rip out all this carpet out."

A home on Rockwood Terrace in Medford was also struck by lightning. No injuries were reported.

On Wednesday night, a fisherman was killed when he was struck by lightning on Pleasant Bay in South Orleans. Christopher West, 42, was shellfishing just east of Sipsons Island when severe weather swept over the bay, Orleans fire officials said.

It appeared the man got caught in the thunderstorms that rumbled through the Cape, fire officials said.

A second person in the boat was hospitalized with chest pains.

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