On December 28, 2016, at 2321 hours the Lebanon Fire Department was dispatched to the area of School Street and Green Street for a report of an odor of smoke. Shortly after, Lebanon Emergency Communication received multiple calls reporting heavy smoke coming from the rear of the First Baptist Church on School Street. The alarm assignment was upgraded to a full first alarm bringing in automatic mutual aid from Hanover, NH and Hartford, VT Fire Departments. On arrival of Lebanon Engine 2 at 2326 personnel reported heavy fire visible in the rear of the building and a 2nd alarm was struck. Engine 2 personnel attempted an interior attack and were forced from the building due to high heat in the stairway leading to the second floor. Due to the heavy fire and the age and construction of the building a 3rd alarm assignment was requested. All firefighting operations were moved to a defensive attack with master hose streams.
The fire was declared under control at 0318 hours by Chief Christopoulos. Fire units remain on scene at this time. One firefighter suffered a dislocated shoulder and was treated and released from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Two adjacent house were temporarily evacuated due to concerns about potential collapse of the steeple. As of 0400 hours, the residents were allowed to return to their residence.
Lebanon units were assisted by the Hanover, Hartford, VT, Meriden, Plainfield, Canaan, Enfield, and Grantham Fire Departments at the scene. Grantham, Norwich, VT, Lyme Fire Departments and Enfield FAST EMS provided coverage in the city. The Red Cross assisted with the evacuees and with refreshments on scene for emergency personnel.
At this time the origin and cause of the fire is under investigation by the Lebanon Fire Prevention Division, Lebanon Police Department, and the New Hampshire State Fire Marshal’s Office.
School Street will remain closed until the structural integrity of the steeple can be assessed by a structural engineer.
Questions related to this incident should be directed to Chief Chris Christopoulos at the Lebanon Fire Department at 603-448-8810.