Fire ravages lakeside church retreat

by: Tom Regan Updated:

CANTON, Ga. - A massive fire that possibly started with a lightning  strike, destroyed two buildings at a religious retreat site on Lake Alatoona  early Monday morning.

"We were supposed to have a group there last night, but with the weather, we made some change of plans. Fortunately for us, we didn't have anybody at the site," said Marietta First Baptist Church Pastor Bill Ross.

Ross told Channel 2's Tom Regan that his church leases the land from the Army Corps of Engineers. Two of the five buildings that caught fire are manufactured double-wide structures that are subdivided into cabins. The church and another Christian organization use the retreat for recreation, prayer services and other activities  for children and adults.

"It's a great place for us. We're always working on it. Trying to re-envision and put it to different uses." said Ross.

The Cherokee County Fire Department says while the cause of the fire is unknown, lightning is suspected.

"I know the investigator is doing a lightning data report. We did have six lightning strikes in Cherokee County this morning because of the storms that came through," said Cherokee County Fire Department spokesman Tim Cavander.

Cavander said there was no evidence of arson. The pastor said the organizations will have to adjust retreat plans for the summer and fall until the buildings are replaced.

"This is going to be difficult for us, but we'll look at it and see what we can do. It's just one of those things that happens," said Ross