by: Richard Elliot Updated:
GRIFFIN, Ga. - Fire investigators want to determine if lightning cause the blaze that destroyed a Spalding County church early Wednesday morning.
The fire gutted the main sanctuary along with the offices and classrooms of the New Salem Baptist Church just west of Griffin. Firefighters located right next door got the alarm call around 4 am as a line of storms moved through the area.
They said they responded to the church in less than a minute, but by then, the fire already was burning out of control.
"It is possible. We did have a lot of lightning in the area," said Spalding County Fire Marshal Eddie James. "I do live close, and we did have a lot of lightning at my house." He could not determine yet if lightning is the main culprit.
New Salem's pastor, Mike Barnes, said the church has been together since the 1800s, but moved to the New Salem Road location in the early 1900s. He said his congregation is devastated by the fire.
"It's a shame to go though this," said Barnes as he watched the fire gut the interior of his church. "But we just trust in the Lord. We know he's got a plan, and we're just going to follow his will and keep moving forward."
Barnes said they plan to have Sunday services inside their Family Life Building located across the street from the main sanctuary.