Quick work by firefighters saves church in Northborough

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Quick work by firefighters saves church in Northborough
A fire damaged the Church of the Nativity on Howard Street April 9. (Photo/Courtesy Northborough Fire Department)

NORTHBOROUGH – A fire damaged the Church of the Nativity on Howard Street in the early morning of Tuesday, April 9.

According to Deputy Fire Chief Neal Aspesi, the department received an automatic fire alarm activation from the church at 1:04 a.m. The property includes a chapel attached to a building containing offices, function areas and a day care, all were unoccupied at the time of the alarm.

The department’s on-duty shift of four firefighters and one captain responded with Engine 2 and Tower 1, arriving to find an activated alarm but no smoke or fire showing from the outside of a large wood frame two-story building attached to a large heavy timber framed chapel.

The captain first went to the fire alarm panel, which is located on the opposite side of the building from the chapel. The area was clear, but he detected a slight odor.

The captain ordered a crew of two firefighters to stretch a hose line and investigate the whole building. When the captain and two firefighters opened the hallway doors leading to the chapel area, they encountered smoke. When they opened the doors to the chapel, there was a large volume of smoke banked down to the floor, along with excessive heat.

A first alarm was struck at  1:21 a.m., recalling off-duty NFD staff and starting mutual-aid from the Marlborough, Shrewsbury and Westborough fire departments, and an ambulance from Patriot-Marlborough.

The two firefighters on the Engine 2 hand line were able to contain the fire to the altar and surrounding areas of the chapel with a single hose line, soon assisted by firefighters with a second hose line.

Once the fire was under control (not fully extinguished), crews immediately began removing religious artifacts and bibles from the chapel, handing them off to chapel representatives who were on scene.

The fire was deemed under control at 1:35 a.m. Crews remained on scene until 4:38 a.m., fully extinguishing the fire, checking for extension of hidden fire, ventilating smoke and continuing to conduct salvage efforts.

“The combination of the fire alarm system, the chapel doors being closed and the quick action of our crews and mutual aid partners were major factors in preventing what could have been a significant loss, both financially and to the congregation,” said Aspesi.

A Southborough engine provided station coverage.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation with an estimated dollar loss of $175,000. There were no injuries.

Quick work by firefighters saves church in Northborough
A fan clears out the smoke after a fire at the Church of the Nativity on Howard Streets in the early morning of Tuesday, April 9. (photo/courtesy Northborough Fire Department)

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