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Cause of fire that destroyed Townsend church rectory still undetermined

Heavy flames caused serious damage to the rectory at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Townsend overnight. Photo courtesy David Bryce
Heavy flames caused serious damage to the rectory at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Townsend overnight. Photo courtesy David Bryce
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TOWNSEND — The cause of the Dec. 22 fire that destroyed the St. John the Evangelist Parish rectory is still undetermined according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

A decision to leave the cause as undetermined came after investigators identified several possible ignition sources that could not be eliminated. However, the report said that there is no indication that the fire was started intentionally. The report was submitted by Sheryl O’Donnell of the Massachusetts State Police.

According to the report, possible ignition sources included a space heater that the occupant was uncertain if they had turned off. A laptop and LED lighting were also found to be energized. The first floor “Green Room” fireplace had also been in place the night of the fire and the flue was found to be in the “closed” position.

“Investigators do opine that the volume of fire was attributed to several factors to include several attempts to self-extinguish and open ventilation (front door, open staircase, bank of windows) and a delay in notification increased the fire’s advancement prior to any suppression efforts,” the report reads.

The church rectory was believed to be one of the oldest buildings in Townsend. At the time of the fire, The Sun reported Rev. Jeremy St. Martin escaped alive with burn injuries to his hands after attempting to extinguish the fire himself.

Since December, the building continues to exist in its current condition. Staff at St. John the Evangelist Parish did not respond to a request for comment before the Voice’s print deadline.