Published in the November 30, 2018 edition.

WAKEFIELD — It’s been more than a month since the fire that destroyed the First Baptist Church on Oct. 23 and many have been wondering when the pile of rubble left from the fire and subsequent demolition will be removed.

According to Wakefield’s Emergency Management Director Thomas Walsh, it was determined that the church, and now the remaining debris, contained asbestos. Whenever that happens, Walsh said, a plan for disposal of the remains of the building must be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency for approval before anything can be removed.

He said that after speaking with an EPA official, he expected that approval to come through this week.

If that happens, removal could begin as soon as next week.

A devastating seven-alarm fire caused by a lightning strike destroyed the nearly 150-year-old First Baptist Church on October 23.

The first responding firefighters got to the church that night shortly after 7. According to Fire Chief Michael Sullivan, they began hitting an area near the base of the steeple with water and were preparing to bring a hose inside the church when flames suddenly raced up the entire height of the 180-foot steeple. A second alarm was quickly sounded, and then a third.

Sullivan explained the day after the fire that once a steeple is involved, it is very difficult to control any church fire. Older churches tend to have multiple ceilings including decorative false ceilings with voids between the ceiling and the roof. Once flames get into that space, a fire can easily gain a lot of headway before firefighters can even see it or get at it.

“There was just no stopping (the fire) once it got into that concealed ceiling space,” the chief said.

The damage was estimated at $1 million. In a report of the building inspector from last month, it cost $500,000 to raze the remains of the building.

Since the fire destroyed their house of worship, First Baptist Church parishoners have been meeting in space provided them by the First Parish Congregational Church.

The church was also home to the Tall Spire Nursery School, which has been meeting in various places around town since the fire.