2017-12-01 / Front Page

Authorities close Bethel fire probe

By TIM GULLA
Ledger Staff Writer

Investigations by the State Law Enforcement Division and the Gaffney Fire Department into a Thanksgiving evening fire that destroyed the old sanctuary at the historic Bethel Baptist Church have come to a close with fire officials releasing the property back to church control.

However, the cause of the fire has not yet been announced.

Gaffney Fire Marshal Billy Bishop said some follow-up investigations are planned before the probe is wrapped up, possibly by next week.

Officials said from the start there was nothing to indicate the fire was suspicious and that SLED’s involvement was customary since a church was involved and because the fire impacted a large structure.

Police guarded the scene around the clock for the first few days of the fire investigation and a temporary fence was subsequently placed around the property Monday as a security measure.

“We had people asking if they could have the stained glass windows,” Bishop said.

The entire roof above the old sanctuary collapsed.

“It’s just too dangerous for people to get in there,” Bishop said.

After moving church services last weekend due to the situation, Pastor Rev. J.W. Sanders Jr. said services will be held at Bethel Baptist Church this Sunday.

“The community support has been so overwhelming,” he said while offering thanks to all of the churches and community groups that have reached out since the fire offering help and assistance.

He said someone from the Cherokee Alliance of Visual Artists also offered to lend a hand preserving what remains of the old sanctuary’s stained glass.

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