Lightning knocks steeple off church

Published 11:03 am Thursday, June 20, 2019

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A lightning strike during the severe storm that lingered in the county from late Monday night into the early morning hours Tuesday is believed to be the culprit of a fire that damaged Smith Grove United Methodist Church.

Someone driving by the church on U.S. 158 called dispatch at 3:43 a.m. to report flames coming from the roof. By 3:48, firefighters were on the scene, according to Kendall Howard, deputy chief of the Smith Grove Fire Department. In all, around 40 firefighters from Smith Grove, Cornatzer-Dulin, Farmington, Mocksville, and Cooleemee worked to get the fire out, and by 4:39 a.m., it was under control.

Howard said the steeple, found lying in the yard, appeared to have been blown off the roof by the strike. The foundation of the steeple caught fire and burned a hole through the roof.

Surveying the damage Monday, Pastor Darren Crotts said the sanctuary is “pretty much ruined.”

Neighbors, who are also members of the church, believe they heard the lightning strike the steeple, which has been in place since the church was built in 1966. It was founded in 1877, Crotts said. He arrived on the scene shortly after 4 a.m. and could see the flames coming out of the roof.

Reflecting on the incident hours later, Crotts was tired but said he was so thankful for the fire department, for the rapid response and the amount of people on the scene working to get the fire out.

“It was unbelievable the amount of firemen in this place,” he said.

Within hours of the fire, several churches had already contacted Crotts, who has been pastor at Smith Grove UMC for five years, to offer space in their churches for services. Crotts said they would likely hold services in Smith Grove’s fellowship hall until repairs could be made.

Those offers go to the strong belief Crotts said he and church members have in the words of Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Howard said while it is thought lightning caused the fire, it is still under investigation. There were no injuries.