By DEUCE NIVEN
Lightning may be to blame for fire that claimed the four-year-old sanctuary at Cherry Grove Baptist Church Friday evening, fire officials said.
Firefighters from across Columbus County, Brunswick County and Horry County, South Carolina battled the blaze beginning at about 4:30 p.m., fire mostly contained before 10:30 p.m., Columbus County Deputy Emergency Services Director David Ransom said.
“The sanctuary is gone,” Ransom said. “The four walls are standing, but everything is gone. They did save the education part, and the fellowship hall.”
“There were about 16 fire departments involved,” Tabor City Fire Chief Jerry Hodges said. “When we got here the flames were 50-feet high or more.”
Fire erupted from the building just minutes after a “terrific storm,” Hodges said.
“There will be an investigation, for sure, but if I had to put my money on it I would say lightning got it,” Hodges said.
Established in 1810, the church has been renovated several times over the year. Church members dedicated the $800,000, 340-seat sanctuary in 2012.
Look for more on this story in Wednesday’s Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.