New Beginnings Baptist Church had just ended its evening service with some basketball and then everyone left for the evening.
About 20 minutes later as a third band of severe thunderstorms moved through Salem, lightening struck the church’s steeple and caused a fire.
The Salem Fire Department responded to a three-alarm fire at the church after 10p and brought the blaze under control in about 90 minutes.
There were no injuries.
Pastor Scott Huffaker said lightening hit the church’s steeple and traveled down the ground wire, catching the side of the building on fire. A neighbor told Huffaker he heard the lightening strike and thought it had initially hit a tree. “He said it just struck and must have just stayed on the steeple for a few seconds and just rumbled and shook the ground.”
Firefighters cut into the second story and portions of the roof to get the fire under control.
Huffaker initially estimated the damage at $20,000 but said it could easily range over $100,000 because of water and smoke damage to the building, located east of Salem on Bata Road.
Kevin Carty, pastor of Westside Baptist Church consoled Huffaker in the parking lot, “I have a church….you have a church. For a week or a year. Whatever it takes.”