Just hours after a fire destroyed the Thorndike Congregational Church early Wednesday morning, Dec. 28, members of the community and neighboring church groups were reaching out to see what they could do to help.

Wednesday afternoon, members of the congregation were at the scene along with Thorndike firefighters, including Fire Chief Peter Quimby, who also attends church there.

Quimby said while it was especially tough to watch the blaze tear through his own place of worship, the fact that he is familiar with the century-old building turned out to be a blessing. He said he knew where many of the church’s important documents were stored, and because of that, firefighters were able to enter the building and retrieve the file cabinets that contained those pieces of the church’s history.

“A lot of the archives of the church have been salvaged,” said Quimby.

And while the loss of the church made for a difficult day for Quimby and his neighbors who attend church there, he said he has been heartened to see the outpouring of support that has already come — in a matter of just hours — from the community and other church groups from around the county.

“But that’s what us church people do, we come together,” he said with a smile.

As Quimby spoke, passers by stopped to inquire about the church, while others stopped and asked if there was anything they could do to help the displaced churchgoers.

Clyde Rumney, who is also a member of the Thorndike Congregational Church, said many area church groups have offered the use of their own buildings while the burnt-out structure is rebuilt. For the coming Sunday services, though, Rumney has offered up the finished cellar in his own home at 42 Palmer Road.

“We’ll have a meeting after,” said Rumney.

Rumney, a former firefighter himself, said he was on the scene while the building was ablaze, noting that he “stayed out of the way” while firefighters worked to try and save the church.

Quimby said he was glad Rumney was there because there were a few occasions that the fire chief leaned on him for information about the building.

“There were several times when I needed to ask some questions,” he told Rumney.

The church, which neighbors the town’s fire station, was destroyed in a fire that was reported at about 4:15 a.m. Wednesday. The cause of the blaze is currently unknown and the State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating, Quimby said.

The flames were visible coming from the exterior rear wall of the building when firefighters arrived.

“The back wall of the church was pretty well involved,” said Quimby.

Firefighters were able to put the fire out in about three hours, Quimby said, but there was little left of the church.

“The building is still standing, but it’s pretty well gutted,” said the chief, adding that no one was hurt.

Unity, Troy, Freedom, Brooks, Jackson and Montville firefighters assisted at the scene, Quimby said, while the Monroe, Waldo and Morrill Fire Departments were on standby for Thorndike in the event that another fire was reported in town. Albion firefighters were on standby for Freedom. Liberty and Unity Fire Departments each brought in a ladder truck, Quimby said, and Unity Ambulance were also on the scene.

Quimby said the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office lent a hand with traffic control, as a portion of Gordon Hill Road (Route 139) was closed off while firefighters knocked down the blaze.

That kind of mutual aid is especially valuable and often necessary in towns like Thorndike, Quimby said, where volunteer fire departments struggle to attract and retain new members.

“That’s why we have mutual aid,” he said, adding that all of the firefighters worked well together despite the number of people who responded to the scene.

“That was more fire people and trucks than I’ve seen in a lifetime,” said Rumney.