UNION — A Sunday School teacher’s timely arrival helped avert disaster after lighting struck the steeple of Hebron Baptist Church Sunday morning blasting the cross off of it and starting a fire that caused an estimated $10,000 damage to the building.
Southside Fire Department Public Information Officer Roger Bailey said that his department was dispatched to the church, located at 143 Hebron Church Road, Union, at 9:53 a.m. Bailey said when firefighters arrived they found smoke coming from the steeple which he said had been struck by lighting. He said that firefighters remained on the scene for approximately two hours extinguishing the blaze and making sure it was out before leaving at 11:27 a.m.
Bailey said the fire was discovered by a Sunday School teacher who arrived early at the church. He said that the teacher noticed debris in the yard and looked up to see smoke coming out of the steeple.
The Sunday School teacher’s arrival was fortuitous according to Bailey who said that had it been any day other than Sunday the church might have been destroyed.
“If they hadn’t had church today it would probably have burned down,” Bailey said Sunday evening. “Their having church is what saved the day.”
Bailey reiterated this in assessing the damage to the church.
“We’re estimating it did approximately $10,000 damage, but we were able to save a $500,000 building,” Bailey said.
In addition to the Southside Fire Department, Bailey said the Monarch, Santuc, and City of Union fire departments also responded as did the Union County Sheriff’s Office, Union County EMS, and the City of Union Utility Department. He thanked all these agencies for their assistance, but wanted to give a special thanks to the City of Union for sending its platform truck which he said enabled to firefighters to successfully battle the blaze from the outside of the steeple.
“That was our only access to the steeple from the outside,” Bailey said. “That made our lives a whole lot easier.”
Among the debris from the lightning strike was part of the cross at the pinnacle of the steeple. It was blasted off the steeple by the lightning and was still lying on the ground near the flagpole in front of the church Sunday evening.
Even with the damage to their church, however, the congregation at Hebron Baptist Church was still able to hold a worship service Sunday morning.
Church member Ben Jolly said the congregation gathered in the church social hall for a short worship that included prayer and a message from the church’s music minister, Terry Lawing.
Hebron Church Treasurer Rita Jolly said that most of the damage was in the attic area above the church sound room. She said that work is already under way to clean up the damage and prevent any more water damage. She thanked the fire departments for all their hard work which she said prevented the fire from spreading and their efforts to protect the sanctuary and the church’s sound equipment from being damaged.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.