Fire officials: Lightning strike may have burned down church activity center

Published: Aug. 13, 2014 at 10:03 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2014 at 12:55 PM EDT
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CAMDEN, SC (WIS) - An administrative building for a church in Camden caught fire early Wednesday morning and is a total loss, according to fire officials.

Camden Fire Chief John Bowers says the call came in around 4 a.m. for a structure fire at 112 Battleship Road.

When fire crews arrived, Bowers says, they found flames coming through the roof at the building owned by River Church.

Lead Pastor Bryan Plyler says he received a call about the fire.

"When you get a call between 11 p.m. and 6 in the morning, as a pastor, your heart sinks," said Plyler. "By the time anybody got here to do anything about it, it was pretty much a lost cause."

A waitress, who works at a restaurant behind the building, said she could see the flames over the trees.

When Executive Pastor Todd Warnock arrived, he knew there wasn't much that would be saved.

"There were flames coming out of the left hand end of the building," described Warnock.

Warnock says firefighters told him the fire was likely sparked by a lightning strike, but the department is still investigating.

"The church is fine. This is just a building," said Plyler. "Everything in that building can be replaced."

A few things were not damaged in the fire, including three bags of money collected by a youth group to support a young girl in Vietnam. The group adopted the little girl earlier this year.

Just hours after the fire, people stopped by to pray. Community members also stopped by to offer help.

"That's a real blessing to see people come out of the woodwork to try and help," said Plyler. "It's an incredible blessing."

The church will continue to meet Sunday's at the high school, and Pastors Plyler and Warnock are working to find a temporary place to host activities and youth group.

Fire officials do not know what started the fire, but they don't expect foul play.

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